Publication
Physical Review Letters
Paper

Barrier Crossing in Escherichia coli Chemotaxis

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Abstract

We study cell navigation in spatiotemporally complex environments by developing a microfluidic racetrack device that creates a traveling wave with multiple peaks and a tunable wave speed. We find that while the population-averaged chemotaxis drift speed increases with wave speed for low wave speed, it decreases sharply for high wave speed. This reversed dependence of population-averaged chemotaxis drift speed on wave speed is caused by a "barrier-crossing" phenomenon, where a cell hops backwards from one peak attractant location to the peak behind by crossing an unfavorable (barrier) region with low attractant concentrations. By using a coarse-grained model of chemotaxis, we map bacterial motility in an attractant field to the random motion of an overdamped particle in an effective potential. The observed barrier-crossing phenomenon of living cells and its dependence on the spatiotemporal profile of attractant concentration are explained quantitatively by Kramers reaction rate theory.

Date

28 Feb 2017

Publication

Physical Review Letters

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