As with many living organisms, bacteria often live on the surface of solids, such as foods, organisms, buildings and soil. Compared with dispersive behavior in liquid, bacteria on surface environment exhibit significantly restricted mobility. They have access to only limited resources and cannot be liberated from the changing environment. Accordingly, appropriate collective strategies are necessarily required for long-term growth and survival. However, in spite of our deepening knowledge of the structure and characteristics of individual cells, strategic self-organizing dynamics of their community is poorly understood and therefore not yet predictable. Here, we report a morphological change in Bacillus subtilis biofilms due to environmental pH variations, and present a mathematical model for the macroscopic spatiotemporal dynamics. We show that an environmental pH shift transforms colony morphology on hard agar media from notched 'volcano-like' to round and front-elevated 'crater-like'. We discover that a pH-dependent dose-response relationship between nutritional resource level and quantitative bacterial motility at the population level plays a central role in the mechanism of the spatio-temporal cell population structure design in biofilms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)