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Mol Biol Cell. May 1993; 4(5): 469–482.
PMCID: PMC300951

Computer simulation of the phosphorylation cascade controlling bacterial chemotaxis.


We have developed a computer program that simulates the intracellular reactions mediating the rapid (nonadaptive) chemotactic response of Escherichia coli bacteria to the attractant aspartate and the repellent Ni2+ ions. The model is built from modular units representing the molecular components involved, which are each assigned a known value of intracellular concentration and enzymatic rate constant wherever possible. The components are linked into a network of coupled biochemical reactions based on a compilation of widely accepted mechanisms but incorporating several novel features. The computer motor shows the same pattern of runs, tumbles and pauses seen in actual bacteria and responds in the same way as living bacteria to sudden changes in concentration of aspartate or Ni2+. The simulated network accurately reproduces the phenotype of more than 30 mutants in which components of the chemotactic pathway are deleted and/or expressed in excess amounts and shows a rapidity of response to a step change in aspartate concentration similar to living bacteria. Discrepancies between the simulation and real bacteria in the phenotype of certain mutants and in the gain of the chemotactic response to aspartate suggest the existence of additional as yet unidentified interactions in the in vivo signal processing pathway.

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