The environment topography alters the transition from single-cell populations to multicellular structures in Myxococcus xanthus
Karla C. Hernández Ramos, Edna Rodríguez-Sánchez, Juan Antonio Arias del Angel, Alejandro V. Arzola, Mariana Benítez, Ana E. Escalante, Alessio Franci, Giovanni Volpe, Natsuko Rivera-Yoshida
The social soil-dwelling bacteria Myxococcus xanthus can form multicellular structures, known as fruiting bodies. Experiments in homogeneous environments have shown that this process is affected by the physico-chemical properties of the substrate, but they have largely neglected the role of complex topographies. We experimentally demonstrate that the topography alters single-cell motility and multicellular organization in M. xanthus. In topographies realized by randomly placing silica particles over agar plates, we observe that the cells’ interaction with particles drastically modifies the dynamics of cellular aggregation, leading to changes in the number, size and shape of the fruiting bodies, and even to arresting their formation in certain conditions. We further explore this type of cell-particle interaction in a minimal computational model. These results provide fundamental insights into how the environment topography influences the emergence of complex multicellular structures from single cells, which is a fundamental problem of biological, ecological and medical relevance.