Patterns of bacterial motility in microfluidics-confining environments.


Tokárová, V
Sudalaiyadum Perumal, A
Nayak, M
Shum, H
Kašpar, O
Rajendran, K
Mohammadi, M
Tremblay, C
Gaffney, E
Martel, S
Nicolau, D

Publication Date: 

1 April 2021


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Understanding the motility behavior of bacteria in confining microenvironments, in which they search for available physical space and move in response to stimuli, is important for environmental, food industry, and biomedical applications. We studied the motility of five bacterial species with various sizes and flagellar architectures (<i>Vibrio natriegens</i>, <i>Magnetococcus marinus</i>, <i>Pseudomonas putida</i>, <i>Vibrio fischeri</i>, and <i>Escherichia coli</i>) in microfluidic environments presenting various levels of confinement and geometrical complexity, in the absence of external flow and concentration gradients. When the confinement is moderate, such as in quasi-open spaces with only one limiting wall, and in wide channels, the motility behavior of bacteria with complex flagellar architectures approximately follows the hydrodynamics-based predictions developed for simple monotrichous bacteria. Specifically, <i>V. natriegens</i> and <i>V. fischeri</i> moved parallel to the wall and <i>P. putida</i> and <i>E. coli</i> presented a stable movement parallel to the wall but with incidental wall escape events, while <i>M. marinus</i> exhibited frequent flipping between wall accumulator and wall escaper regimes. Conversely, in tighter confining environments, the motility is governed by the steric interactions between bacteria and the surrounding walls. In mesoscale regions, where the impacts of hydrodynamics and steric interactions overlap, these mechanisms can either push bacteria in the same directions in linear channels, leading to smooth bacterial movement, or they could be oppositional (e.g., in mesoscale-sized meandered channels), leading to chaotic movement and subsequent bacterial trapping. The study provides a methodological template for the design of microfluidic devices for single-cell genomic screening, bacterial entrapment for diagnostics, or biocomputation.

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Publication Type: 

Journal Article