(398a) Life in a Tight Spot: How Bacteria Swim, Disperse, and Grow in Complex Spaces
AIChE Annual Meeting
Tuesday, November 9, 2021 - 3:30pm to 3:45pm
Bacterial motility is central to processes in agriculture, the environment, and medicine. While motility is typically studied in bulk liquid or on flat surfaces, many bacterial habitats -- e.g., soils, sediments, and biological gels/tissues -- are complex porous media. Here, we use studies of E. coli in transparent 3D porous media to demonstrate how confinement in a heterogenous medium fundamentally alters motility. In particular, we show how the paradigm of run-and-tumble motility is dramatically altered by pore-scale confinement, both for cells performing undirected motion and those performing chemotaxis, directed motion in response to a chemical stimulus. Our porous media also enable precisely structured multi-cellular communities to be 3D printed. Using this capability, we show how spatial variations in the ability of cells to perform chemotaxis enable populations to autonomously stabilize large-scale perturbations in their overall morphology. Finally, we show how when the pores are small enough to prevent cells from swimming through the pore space, expansion of a community via cellular growth and division gives rise to distinct, highly-complex, large-scale community morphologies. Together, our work thus reveals new principles to predict and control the behavior of bacteria, and active matter in general, in complex environments.