Reversals and collisions optimize protein exchange in bacterial swarms

Aboutaleb Amiri, Cameron Harvey, Amy Buchmann, Scott Christley, Joshua D. Shrout, Igor S. Aranson, Mark Alber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Swarming groups of bacteria coordinate their behavior by self-organizing as a population to move over surfaces in search of nutrients and optimal niches for colonization. Many open questions remain about the cues used by swarming bacteria to achieve this self-organization. While chemical cue signaling known as quorum sensing is well-described, swarming bacteria often act and coordinate on time scales that could not be achieved via these extracellular quorum sensing cues. Here, cell-cell contact-dependent protein exchange is explored as a mechanism of intercellular signaling for the bacterium Myxococcus xanthus. A detailed biologically calibrated computational model is used to study how M. xanthus optimizes the connection rate between cells and maximizes the spread of an extracellular protein within the population. The maximum rate of protein spreading is observed for cells that reverse direction optimally for swarming. Cells that reverse too slowly or too fast fail to spread extracellular protein efficiently. In particular, a specific range of cell reversal frequencies was observed to maximize the cell-cell connection rate and minimize the time of protein spreading. Furthermore, our findings suggest that predesigned motion reversal can be employed to enhance the collective behavior of biological synthetic active systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number032408
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 13 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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