Two continuum models for the spreading of myxobacteria swarms

Angela Gallegos, Barbara Mazzag, Alex Mogilner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We analyze the phenomenon of spreading of a Myxococcus xanthus bacterial colony on plates coated with nutrient. The bacteria spread by gliding on the surface. In the first few hours, cell growth is irrelevant to colony spread. In this case, bacteria spread through peninsular protrusions from the edge of the initial colony. We analyze the diffusion through the narrowing reticulum of cells on the surface mathematically and derive formulae for the spreading rates. On the time scale of tens of hours, effective diffusion of the bacteria, combined with cell division and growth, causes a constant linear increase in the colony's radius. Mathematical analysis and numerical solution of reaction-diffusion equations describing the bacterial and nutrient dynamics demonstrate that, in this regime, the spreading rate is proportional to the square root of both the effective diffusion coefficient and the nutrient concentration. The model predictions agree with the data on spreading rate dependence on the type of gliding motility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-861
Number of pages25
JournalBulletin of Mathematical Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Colony spreading
  • Continuum model
  • Gliding motility
  • Myxobacteria swarms
  • Traveling wave

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • General Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Pharmacology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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