Stigmergy: A key driver of self-organization in bacterial biofilms

Landes Bioscience
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: Gloag ES, Javed MA, Wang H, Gee ML, Wade SA, Turnbull L, Whitchurch CB. Stigmergy: A key driver of self-organization in bacterial biofilms. Communicative & Integrative Biology 2013; 6:e27331;
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Bacterial biofilms are complex multicellular communities that are often associated with the emergence of large-scale patterns across the biofilm. How bacteria self-organize to form these structured communities is an area of active research. We have recently determined that the emergence of an intricate network of trails that forms during the twitching motility mediated expansion of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms is attributed to an interconnected furrow system that is forged in the solidified nutrient media by aggregates of cells as they migrate across the media surface. This network acts as a means for self-organization of collective behavior during biofilm expansion as the cells following these vanguard aggregates were preferentially confined within the furrow network resulting in the formation of an intricate network of trails of cells. Here we further explore the process by which the intricate network of trails emerges. We have determined that the formation of the intricate network of furrows is associated with significant remodeling of the sub-stratum underlying the biofilm. The concept of stigmergy has been used to describe a variety of self-organization processes observed in higher organisms and abiotic systems that involve indirect communication via persistent cues in the environment left by individuals that influence the behavior of other individuals of the group at a later point in time. We propose that the concept of stigmergy can also be applied to describe self-organization of bacterial biofilms and can be included in the repertoire of systems used by bacteria to coordinate complex multicellular behaviors.
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