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Math Biosci. 1992 May;109(2):127-49.

A simple expression for quantifying bacterial chemotaxis using capillary assay data: application to the analysis of enhanced chemotactic responses from growth-limited cultures.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville 22903-2442.


An individual cell-based mathematical model of Rivero et al. provides a framework for determining values of the chemotactic sensitivity coefficient chi 0, an intrinsic cell population parameter that characterizes the chemotactic response of bacterial populations. This coefficient can theoretically relate the swimming behavior of individual cells to the resulting migration of a bacterial population. When this model is applied to the commonly used capillary assay, an approximate solution can be obtained for a particular range of chemotactic strengths yielding a very simple analytical expression for estimating the value of chi 0, [formula: see text] from measurements of cell accumulation in the capillary, N, when attractant uptake is negligible. A0 and A infinity are the dimensionless attractant concentrations initially present at the mouth of the capillary and far into the capillary, respectively, which are scaled by Kd, the effective dissociation constant for receptor-attractant binding. D is the attractant diffusivity, and mu is the cell random motility coefficient. NRM is the cell accumulation in the capillary in the absence of an attractant gradient, from which mu can be determined independently as mu = (pi/4t)(NRM/pi r2bc)2, with r the capillary tube radius and bc the bacterial density initially in the chamber. When attractant uptake is significant, a slightly more involved procedure requiring a simple numerical integration becomes necessary. As an example, we apply this approach to quantitatively characterize, in terms of the chemotactic sensitivity coefficient chi 0, data from Terracciano indicating enhanced chemotactic responses of Escherichia coli to galactose when cultured under growth-limiting galactose levels in a chemostat.

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