Cell-cell communication enhances bacterial chemotaxis toward external attractants

Zhicheng Long, Bryan Quaife, Hanna Salman, Zoltán N. Oltvai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Bacteria are able to coordinate their movement, growth and biochemical activities through cell-cell communication. While the biophysical mechanism of bacterial chemotaxis has been well understood in individual cells, the role of communication in the chemotaxis of bacterial populations is not clear. Here we report experimental evidence for cell-cell communication that significantly enhances the chemotactic migration of bacterial populations, a finding that we further substantiate using numerical simulations. Using a microfluidic approach, we find that E. coli cells respond to the gradient of chemoattractant not only by biasing their own random-walk swimming pattern through the well-understood intracellular chemotaxis signaling, but also by actively secreting a chemical signal into the extracellular medium, possibly through a hitherto unknown communication signal transduction pathway. This extracellular signaling molecule is a strong chemoattractant that attracts distant cells to the food source. The observed behavior may represent a common evolved solution to accelerate the function of biochemical networks of interacting cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12855
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

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