Mathematical modeling of mechanosensitive reversal control in Myxococcus xanthus


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Adjusting motility patterns according to environmental cues is important for bacterial survival. Myxococcus xanthus, a bacterium moving on surfaces by gliding and twitching mechanisms, modulates the reversal frequency of its front-back polarity in response to mechanical cues like substrate stiffness and cell-cell contact. In this study, we propose that M. xanthus’s gliding machinery senses environmental mechanical cues during force generation and modulates cell reversal accordingly. To examine our hypothesis, we expand an existing mathematical model for periodic polarity reversal in M. xanthus, incorporating the experimental data on the intracellular dynamics of the gliding machinery and the interaction between the gliding machinery and a key polarity regulator. The model successfully reproduces the dependence of cell reversal frequency on substrate stiffness observed in M. xanthus gliding. We further propose reversal control networks between the gliding and twitching motility machineries to explain the opposite reversal responses observed in wild type M. xanthus cells that possess both motility mechanisms. These results provide testable predictions for future experimental investigations. In conclusion, our model suggests that the gliding machinery in M. xanthus can function as a mechanosensor, which transduces mechanical cues into a cell reversal signal.



mechanosensing, bacterial motility, gliding motility, polarity regulation, myxobacteria, mathematical modeling