Morphodynamics of a growing microbial colony driven by cell death
Bacterial cells can often self-organize into multicellular structures with complex spatiotemporal morphology. In this work, we study the spatiotemporal dynamics of a growing microbial colony in the presence of cell death. We present an individual-based model of nonmotile bacterial cells which grow and proliferate by consuming diffusing nutrients on a semisolid two-dimensional surface. The colony spreads by growth forces and sliding motility of cells and undergoes cell death followed by subsequent disintegration of the dead cells in the medium. We model cell death by considering two possible situations: In one of the cases, cell death occurs in response to the limitation of local nutrients, while the other case corresponds to an active death process, known as apoptotic or programmed cell death. We demonstrate how the colony morphology is influenced by the presence of cell death. Our results show that cell death facilitates transitions from roughly circular to highly branched structures at the periphery of an expanding colony. Interestingly, our results also reveal that for the colonies which are growing in higher initial nutrient concentrations, cell death occurs much earlier compared to the colonies which are growing in lower initial nutrient concentrations. This work provides new insights into the branched patterning of growing bacterial colonies as a consequence of complex interplay among the biochemical and mechanical effects.