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Biophys J. 1998 Jan;74(1):175-81.

Origins of individual swimming behavior in bacteria.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Cells in a cloned population of coliform bacteria exhibit a wide range of swimming behaviors--a form of non-genetic individuality. We used computer models to examine the proposition that these variations are due to differences in the number of chemotaxis signaling molecules from one cell to the next. Simulations were run in which the concentrations of seven gene products in the chemotaxis pathway were changed either deterministically or stochastically, with the changes derived from independent normal distributions. Computer models with two adaptation mechanisms were compared with experimental results from observations on individuals drawn from genetically identical populations. The range of swimming behavior predicted for cells with a standard deviation of protein copy number per cell of 10% of the mean was found to match closely the experimental range of the wild-type population. We also make predictions for the swimming behaviors of mutant strains lacking the adaptational mechanism that can be tested experimentally.

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