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  1. Abstract

    The ability of bacteria to colonize and grow on different surfaces is an essential process for biofilm development. Here, we report the use of synthetic hydrogels with tunable stiffness and porosity to assess physical effects of the substrate on biofilm development. Using time-lapse microscopy to track the growth of expanding Serratia marcescens colonies, we find that biofilm colony growth can increase with increasing substrate stiffness, unlike what is found on traditional agar substrates. Using traction force microscopy-based techniques, we find that biofilms exert transient stresses correlated over length scales much larger than a single bacterium, and that the magnitude of these forces also increases with increasing substrate stiffness. Our results are consistent with a model of biofilm development in which the interplay between osmotic pressure arising from the biofilm and the poroelastic response of the underlying substrate controls biofilm growth and morphology.

  2. Semi-flexible filaments interacting with molecular motors and immersed in rheologically complex and viscoelastic media constitute a common motif in biology. Synthetic mimics of filament-motor systems also feature active or field-activated filaments. A feature common to these active assemblies is the spontaneous emergence of stable oscillations as a collective dynamic response. In nature, the frequency of these emergent oscillations is seen to depend strongly on the viscoelastic characteristics of the ambient medium. Motivated by these observations, we study the instabilities and dynamics of a minimal filament-motor system immersed in model viscoelastic fluids. Using a combination of linear stability analysis and full non-linear numerical solutions, we identify steady states, test the linear stability of these states, derive analytical stability boundaries, and investigate emergent oscillatory solutions. We show that the interplay between motor activity, filament and motor elasticity, and fluid viscoelasticity allows for stable oscillations or limit cycles to bifurcate from steady states. When the ambient fluid is Newtonian, frequencies are controlled by motor kinetics at low viscosities, but decay monotonically with viscosity at high viscosities. In viscoelastic fluids that have the same viscosity as the Newtonian fluid, but additionally allow for elastic energy storage, emergent limit cycles are associated with higher frequencies.more »The increase in frequency depends on the competition between fluid relaxation time-scales and time-scales associated with motor binding and unbinding. Our results suggest that both the stability and oscillatory properties of active systems may be controlled by tailoring the rheological properties and relaxation times of ambient fluidic environments.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 21, 2023
  3. null (Ed.)
    The mechanical micro-environment of cells and tissues influences key aspects of cell structure and function, including cell motility. For proper tissue development, cells need to migrate, interact, and form contacts. Cells are known to exert contractile forces on underlying soft substrates and sense deformations in them. Here, we propose and analyze a minimal biophysical model for cell migration and long-range cell–cell interactions through mutual mechanical deformations of the substrate. We compute key metrics of cell motile behavior, such as the number of cell-cell contacts over a given time, the dispersion of cell trajectories, and the probability of permanent cell contact, and analyze how these depend on a cell motility parameter and substrate stiffness. Our results elucidate how cells may sense each other mechanically and generate coordinated movements and provide an extensible framework to further address both mechanical and short-range biophysical interactions.
  4. Autonomous active, elastic filaments that interact with each other to achieve cooperation and synchrony underlie many critical functions in biology. The mechanisms underlying this collective response and the essential ingredients for stable synchronization remain a mystery. Inspired by how these biological entities integrate elasticity with molecular motor activity to generate sustained oscillations, a number of synthetic active filament systems have been developed that mimic oscillations of these biological active filaments. Here, we describe the collective dynamics and stable spatiotemporal patterns that emerge in such biomimetic multi-filament arrays, under conditions where steric interactions may impact or dominate the collective dynamics. To focus on the role of steric interactions, we study the system using Brownian dynamics, without considering long-ranged hydrodynamic interactions. The simulations treat each filament as a connected chain of self-propelling colloids. We demonstrate that short-range steric inter-filament interactions and filament roughness are sufficient – even in the absence of inter-filament hydrodynamic interactions – to generate a rich variety of collective spatiotemporal oscillatory, traveling and static patterns. We first analyze the collective dynamics of two- and three-filament clusters and identify parameter ranges in which steric interactions lead to synchronized oscillations and strongly occluded states. Generalizing these results to large one-dimensional arrays,more »we find rich emergent behaviors, including traveling metachronal waves, and modulated wavetrains that are controlled by the interplay between the array geometry, filament activity, and filament elasticity. Interestingly, the existence of metachronal waves is non-monotonic with respect to the inter-filament spacing. We also find that the degree of filament roughness significantly affects the dynamics – specifically, filament roughness generates a locking-mechanism that transforms traveling wave patterns into statically stuck and jammed configurations. Taken together, simulations suggest that short-ranged steric inter-filament interactions could combine with complementary hydrodynamic interactions to control the development and regulation of oscillatory collective patterns. Furthermore, roughness and steric interactions may be critical to the development of jammed spatially periodic states; a spatiotemporal feature not observed in purely hydrodynamically interacting systems.« less