Although migrations are essential for soil microorganisms to exploit scarce and heterogeneously distributed resources, bacterial mobility in soil remains poorly studied due to experimental limitations. In this study, time-lapse images collected using live microscopy techniques captured collective and coordinated groups of B. subtilis cells exhibiting “crowd movement”. Groups of B. subtilis cells moved through transparent soil (nafion polymer with particle size resembling sand) toward plant roots and re-arranged dynamically around root tips in the form of elongating and retracting “flocks” resembling collective behaviour usually associated with higher organisms (e.g., bird flocks or fish schools). Genetic analysis reveals B. subtilis flocks are likely driven by the diffusion of extracellular signalling molecules (e.g., chemotaxis, quorum sensing) and may be impacted by the physical obstacles and hydrodynamics encountered in the soil like environment. Our findings advance understanding of bacterial migration through soil matrices and expand known behaviours for coordinated bacterial movement.
Bibliographical note© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to International Society for Microbial Ecology.
- Quorum Sensing