Our paper on computer simulations of bacterial colonies was published in the New Journal of Physics:

Multiscale modeling of bacterial colonies: how pili mediate the dynamics of single cells and cellular aggregates

by Wolfram Pönisch, Christoph A. Weber, Guido Juckeland, Nicolas Biais and Vasily Zaburdaev


Neisseria gonorrhoeae is the causative agent of one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, gonorrhea. Over the past two decades there has been an alarming increase of reported gonorrhea cases where the bacteria were resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics thus prompting for alternative antimicrobial treatment strategies. The crucial step in this and many other bacterial infections is the formation of microcolonies, agglomerates consisting of up to several thousands of cells. The attachment and motility of cells on solid substrates as well as the cell–cell interactions are primarily mediated by type IV pili, long polymeric filaments protruding from the surface of cells. While the crucial role of pili in the assembly of microcolonies has been well recognized, the exact mechanisms of how they govern the formation and dynamics of microcolonies are still poorly understood. Here, we present a computational model of individual cells with explicit pili dynamics, force generation and pili–pili interactions. We employ the model to study a wide range of biological processes, such as the motility of individual cells on a surface, the heterogeneous cell motility within the large cell aggregates, and the merging dynamics and the self-assembly of microcolonies. The results of numerical simulations highlight the central role of pili generated forces in the formation of bacterial colonies and are in agreement with the available experimental observations. The model can quantify the behavior of multicellular bacterial colonies on biologically relevant temporal and spatial scales and can be easily adjusted to include the geometry and pili characteristics of various bacterial species. Ultimately, the combination of the microbiological experimental approach with the in silico model of bacterial colonies might provide new qualitative and quantitative insights on the development of bacterial infections and thus pave the way to new antimicrobial treatments.

See Publications page for the full paper.

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