(398a) Life in a Tight Spot: How Bacteria Swim, Disperse, and Grow in Complex Spaces | AIChE

(398a) Life in a Tight Spot: How Bacteria Swim, Disperse, and Grow in Complex Spaces


Datta, S. - Presenter, Princeton University
Bhattacharjee, T., Princeton University
Amchin, D., Princeton University
Alert, R., Princeton University
Kratz, F., Princeton University
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.