Rice University

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Thesis Defense

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Bioengineering

Speaker: Rajesh Balagam
Doctoral Candidate

Role of mechanical interactions in self-organization behaviors of Myxococcus xanthus bacteria

Monday, March 6, 2017
1:00 PM  to 2:00 PM

1060  BioScience Research Collaborative


The ability of cells to move collectively and self-organize is essential for many biological processes. Myxococcus xanthus is a model organism to study self-organization in bacteria for its capacity to form complex multicellular structures. Coordinated cell movement and intercellular interactions are crucial for bacterial multicellularity, and the mechanisms governing these processes are of active scientific interest. Individual cells interact with neighbors through various chemical and mechanical interactions, but the role of mechanical interactions in coordination and self-organization of bacteria remains unclear. This work investigates the mechanisms underlying various multicellular patterns in M. xanthus bacteria and the role of mechanical interactions in these self-organization behaviors using an agent-based-simulation framework with biophysical models of cell motility. Specifically, we investigate the mechanisms for (i) individual cell motility (ii) collective alignment in cell groups (iii) collective expansion of cell groups and (iv) formation of circular cell aggregates. Our results show that many self-organization behaviors in M. xanthus can be explained by a combination of mechanical interactions among cells and between the cells and the underlying substrate. This work improves our understanding of mechanisms governing various self-organization behaviors displayed by M. xanthus bacteria and provides a general framework to study self-organization behaviors in other surface motile bacteria.

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