Chemotaxis when bacteria remember: Drift versus diffusion

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Author Summary The chemotaxis of Escherichia coli is a prototypical model of navigational strategy. The bacterium maneuvers by switching between near-straight motion, termed runs, and tumbles which reorient its direction. To reach regions of high nutrient concentration, the run-durations are modulated according to the nutrient concentration experienced in recent past. This navigational strategy is quite general, in that the mathematical description of these modulations also accounts for the active motility of C. elegans and for thermotaxis in Escherichia coli. Recent studies have pointed to a possible incompatibility between reaching regions of high nutrient concentration quickly and staying there at long times. We use numerical investigations and analytical arguments to reexamine navigational strategy in bacteria. We show that, by accounting properly for the full memory of the bacterium, this paradox is resolved. Our work clarifies the mechanism that underlies chemotaxis and indicates that chemotactic navigation in wild-type bacteria is controlled by drift while in some mutant bacteria it is controlled by a modulation of the diffusion. We also propose a new set of effective, large-scale equations which describe bacterial chemotactic navigation. Our description is significantly different from previous ones, as it results from a conceptually different coarse-graining procedure.




Chatterjee, S., da Silveira, R. A., & Kafri, Y. (2011). Chemotaxis when bacteria remember: Drift versus diffusion. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(12).

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