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Rauprich, Oliver; Matsushita, Mitsugu; Weijer, Cornelis J.; Siegert, Florian; Esipov, Sergei E.; Shapiro, James A. (1996): Periodic phenomena in Proteus mirabilis swarm colony development. In: Journal of bacteriology, Vol. 178, No. 22: pp. 6525-6538




Proteus mirabilis colonies exhibit striking geometric regularity. Basic microbiological methods and imaging techniques were used to measure periodic macroscopic events in swarm colony morphogenesis. We distinguished three initial phases (lag phase, first swarming phase, and first consolidation phase) followed by repeating cycles of subsequent swarming plus consolidation phases. Each Proteus swarm colony terrace corresponds to one swarming-plus-consolidation cycle. The duration of the lag phase was dependent upon inoculation density in a way that indicated the operation of both cooperative and inhibitory multicellular effects. On our standard medium, the second and subsequent swarm phases displayed structure in the form of internal waves visible with reflected and dark-field illumination. These internal waves resulted from organization of the migrating bacteria into successively thicker cohorts of swarmer cells. Bacterial growth and motility were independently modified by altering the composition of the growth medium. By varying the glucose concentration in the substrate, it was possible to alter biomass production without greatly affecting the kinetics of colony surface area expansion. By varying the agar concentration in the substrate, initial bacterial biomass production was unaffected but colony expansion dynamics were significantly altered. Higher agar concentrations led to slower, shorter swarm phases and longer consolidation phases. Thus, colony growth was restricted by higher agar concentrations but the overall timing of the swarming-plus-consolidation cycles remained constant. None of a variety of factors which had significant effects on colony expansion altered terracing frequencies at 32 degrees C, but the length of the swarming-plus-consolidation cycle was affected by temperature and medium enrichment. Some clinical isolates displayed significant differences in terracing frequencies at 32 degrees C. Our results defined a number of readily quantifiable parameters in swarm colony development. The data showed no connection between nutrient (glucose) depletion and the onset of different phases in swarm colony morphogenesis. Several observations point to the operation of density-dependent thresholds in controlling the transitions between distinct phases.