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Title: Influences of cell shape in microbial communities
Author: Smith, William Peter Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 7399
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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By growing together in dense communities, microorganisms (microbes) have a huge impact on human life. Microbes also come in a wide variety of shapes, but we have yet to understand the importance of these shapes for community biology. How are multi- species communities, such as biofilms and colonies, affected by the morphologies of constituent cells? Which morphologies might these environments select for in turn? To address these questions, we use individual-based modelling to investigate the effects of cell shape on patterning and evolution within microbial communities. We develop a flexible simulation framework, coupling a continuum model of the biofilm chemical environment to a cellular-level description of biofilm growth mechanics. This modelling system allows competitions between different microbial cell shapes to be simulated and studied, in different community contexts. Our models predict that cell shape can strongly affect spatial structure and patterning within competitive communities. Rod cells perform better at colonising surfaces and the expanding edges of colonies, while round cells are better at dominating the upper surface of a community. Our predictions are supported by experiments using Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, and demonstrate that particular shapes can confer a selective advantage in communities. In summary, the work presented in this thesis predicts and examines new mechanisms of self-organisation driven by cell shape, demonstrating a new significance for microbial morphology as a means for cells to succeed in a dense and competitive environment.
Supervisor: Pitt-Francis, Joe ; Osborne, James ; Davit, Yohan ; Foster, Kevin Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biophysics ; Microbiology ; Biofilm ; Self-organisation ; Pattern formation ; Morphology ; Simulation