Complex patterns formed by motile cells of Escherichia coli

We describe conditions under which cells aggregate in response to gradients of attractant which they excrete themselves

Elena O. Budrene; Howard C. Berg


Scholarcy highlights

  • Complex patterns formed by motile cells of Escherichia coli
  • WHEN chemotactic strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli are inoculated on semi-solid agar containing mixtures of amino acids or sugars, the cells swarm outwards in a series of concentric rings: they respond to spatial gradients of attractants generated by uptake and catabolism1–3
  • When cells are grown in semi-solid agar on intermediates of the tricarboxylic acid cycle, they form symmetrical arrays of spots or stripes that arise sequentially
  • When cells in a thin layer of liquid culture are exposed to these compounds, spots appear synchronously, more randomly arrayed
  • The attractant is a chemical sensed by the aspartate receptor
  • As oxygen is limiting at high cell densities, aggregation might serve as a mechanism for collective defence

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