The colonization of bacteria in complex fluid flow networks, such as those found in host vasculature, remains poorly understood. Recently, it was reported that many bacteria, including Bacillus subtilis , Escherichia coli , and Pseudomonas aeruginosa [3, 4], can move in the opposite direction of fluid flow. Upstream movement results from the interplay between fluid shear stress and bacterial motility structures, and such rheotactic-like behavior is predicted to occur for a wide range of conditions . Given the potential ubiquity of upstream movement, its impact on population-level behaviors within hosts could be significant. Here, we find that P. aeruginosa communities use a diverse set of motility strategies, including a novel surface-motility mechanism characterized by counter-advection and transverse diffusion, to rapidly disperse throughout vasculature-like flow networks. These motility modalities give P. aeruginosa a selective growth advantage, enabling it to self-segregate from other human pathogens such as Proteus mirabilis and Staphylococcus aureus that outcompete P. aeruginosa in well-mixed non-flow environments. We develop a quantitative model of bacterial colonization in flow networks, confirm our model in vivo in plant vasculature, and validate a key prediction that colonization and dispersal can be inhibited by modifying surface chemistry. Our results show that the interaction between flow mechanics and motility structures shapes the formation of mixed-species communities and suggest a general mechanism by which bacteria could colonize hosts. Furthermore, our results suggest novel strategies for tuning the composition of multi-species bacterial communities in hosts, preventing inappropriate colonization in medical devices, and combatting bacterial infections.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)