Rheological Dynamics of Active Myxococcus xanthus Populations during Development

Matthew E. Black, Joshua W. Shaevitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The bacterium Myxococcus xanthus produces multicellular droplets called fruiting bodies when starved. These structures form initially through the active dewetting of a vegetative biofilm into surface-associated droplets. This motility-driven aggregation is succeeded by a primitive developmental process in which cells in the droplets mature into nonmotile spores. Here, we use atomic force microscopy to probe the mechanics of these droplets throughout their formation. Using a combination of time- and frequency-domain rheological experiments, we characterize and develop a simple model of the linear viscoelasticity of these aggregates. We then use this model to quantify how cellular behaviors predominant at different developmental times - motility during the dewetting phase and cellular sporulation during later development - manifest as decreased droplet viscosity and increased elasticity, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number218402
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 26 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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