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Self-generated oxygen gradients control collective aggregation of photosynthetic microbes

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journal contribution
posted on 02.12.2021, 14:46 authored by Alexandros A Fragkopoulos, Jérémy Vachier, Johannes Frey, Flora-Maud Le Menn, Marco MazzaMarco Mazza, Michael Wilczek, David Zwicker, Oliver Bäumchen
For billions of years, photosynthetic microbes have evolved under the variable exposure to sunlight in diverse ecosystems and microhabitats all over our planet. Their abilities to dynamically respond to alterations of the luminous intensity, including phototaxis, surface association and diurnal cell cycles, are pivotal for their survival. If these strategies fail in the absence of light, the microbes can still sustain essential metabolic functionalities and motility by switching their energy production from photosynthesis to oxygen respiration. For suspensions of motile C. reinhardtii cells above a critical density, we demonstrate that this switch reversibly controls collective microbial aggregation. Aerobic respiration dominates over photosynthesis in conditions of low light, which causes the microbial motility to sensitively depend on the local availability of oxygen. For dense microbial populations in self-generated oxygen gradients, microfluidic experiments and continuum theory based on a reaction–diffusion mechanism show that oxygen-regulated motility enables the collective emergence of highly localized regions of high and low cell densities.

Funding

Max Planck Society

Fulbright-Cottrell Award grant

History

School

  • Science

Department

  • Mathematical Sciences

Published in

Journal of The Royal Society Interface

Volume

18

Issue

185

Publisher

The Royal Society

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Rights holder

© The authors

Publisher statement

This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Royal Society under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Acceptance date

01/11/2021

Publication date

2021-12-01

Copyright date

2021

eISSN

1742-5662

Language

en

Depositor

Dr Marco Mazza. Deposit date: 1 December 2021

Article number

20210553