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Cell Syst. 2018 Aug 22;7(2):137-145.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cels.2018.06.005. Epub 2018 Jul 25.

Signal Percolation within a Bacterial Community.

Author information

1
Division of Biological Sciences, University of California San Diego, Pacific Hall Room 2225B, Mail Code 0347, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.
2
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
3
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA; Center for Synthetic Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
4
Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Tsinghua-Peking Center for Life Sciences, School of Medicine, Tsinghua University, 100084 Beijing, China.
5
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA; Department of Physics and Astronomy, Carleton College, Northfield, MN 55057, USA.
6
Laboratoire de Physique Théorique, CNRS, PSL, Université Pierre et Marie Curie and École Normale Supérieure, Paris 75231, France.
7
Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona 08003, Spain.
8
Division of Biological Sciences, University of California San Diego, Pacific Hall Room 2225B, Mail Code 0347, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA; San Diego Center for Systems Biology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA. Electronic address: gsuel@ucsd.edu.

Abstract

Signal transmission among cells enables long-range coordination in biological systems. However, the scarcity of quantitative measurements hinders the development of theories that relate signal propagation to cellular heterogeneity and spatial organization. We address this problem in a bacterial community that employs electrochemical cell-to-cell communication. We developed a model based on percolation theory, which describes how signals propagate through a heterogeneous medium. Our model predicts that signal transmission becomes possible when the community is organized near a critical phase transition between a disconnected and a fully connected conduit of signaling cells. By measuring population-level signal transmission with single-cell resolution in wild-type and genetically modified communities, we confirm that the spatial distribution of signaling cells is organized at the predicted phase transition. Our findings suggest that at this critical point, the population-level benefit of signal transmission outweighs the single-cell level cost. The bacterial community thus appears to be organized according to a theoretically predicted spatial heterogeneity that promotes efficient signal transmission.

KEYWORDS:

biofilms; criticality; percolation; self-organization; signal transmission

PMID:
30056004
PMCID:
PMC6214369
[Available on 2019-08-22]
DOI:
10.1016/j.cels.2018.06.005
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