The 3D architecture of a bacterial swarm has implications for antibiotic tolerance

Jonathan D Partridge, Gil Ariel, Orly Schvartz, Rasika M Harshey, Avraham Beer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Swarming bacteria are an example of a complex, active biological system, where high cell density and super-diffusive cell mobility confer survival advantages to the group as a whole. Previous studies on the dynamics of the swarm have been limited to easily observable regions at the advancing edge of the swarm where cells are restricted to a plane. In this study, using defocused epifluorescence video imaging, we have tracked the motion of fluorescently labeled individuals within the interior of a densely packed three-dimensional (3D) region of a swarm. Our analysis reveals a novel 3D architecture, where bacteria are constrained by inter-particle interactions, sandwiched between two distinct boundary conditions. We find that secreted biosurfactants keep bacteria away from the swarm-air upper boundary, and added antibiotics at the lower swarm-surface boundary lead to their migration away from this boundary. Formation of the antibiotic-avoidance zone is dependent on a functional chemotaxis signaling system, in the absence of which the swarm loses its high tolerance to the antibiotics.
Original languageEnglish GB
Article number15823
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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