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Thursday, March 5 • 15:15 - 17:15
Poster: 'Hybrid agent-based-simulation framework for understanding self-organization in bacteria,' Rajesh Balagam, Rice University

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Many pathogenic bacteria evade antibiotic treatments and host immune responses by forming biofilms, where bacterial cells embed themselves inside a layer of self-produced gel material and attach to the host surfaces. Inside biofilms, cells self-organize into complex 3-dimensional multicellular structures. This process requires cell communication and cell movement coordinated with number of chemical and mechanical interactions. Genetic studies have uncovered many of the biochemical signals involved; however the role of mechanical interactions is poorly understood. We investigate the role of mechanical interactions in self-organization of a model bacterium, Myxococcus xanthus, through agent-based computer simulations.

To this end, we have developed a hybrid agent-based simulation framework that can simulate interactions among thousands of cells. Each agent in this framework is based on a detailed biophysical model of single M. xanthus cell. Thus this framework allows for accurately modelling individual cell behavior and yet is able capture the emergent self-organization behavior for large number of cells. Using this framework we have investigated the mechanism of individual cell movement and self-organization behavior among cell groups (~10^2-10^3cells).

Mechanism of individual cell movement in M. xanthus is still not completely understood. By simulating pair-wise cell collisions using our model we are able to discriminate between two competing hypotheses of force generation responsible for M. xanthus movements. Comparison of our results with experimentally observed cell behavior predicts that strong adhesive attachments between cell and substrate are required for M. xanthus movement. This prediction is verified to be true in further experimental studies. Next we have extended our model to investigate the self-organization of M. xanthus cells into cell clusters during initial phase of biofilm formation. Our simulations demonstrate that this cell clustering is an emergent behavior resulting from interplay of various mechanical processes among M. xanthus cells. Furthermore, our framework is able to reproduce the distinct dynamic cell clustering behavior observed for different M. xanthus motility mutants. 


Thursday March 5, 2015 15:15 - 17:15 CST
BioScience Research Collaborative 6500 Main Street, Houston, Tx 77005