Timothy J. Rudge, Paul J. Steiner, Andrew Phillips, and Jim Haseloff
Microbial biofilms are complex, self-organized communities of bacteria, which employ physiological cooperation and spatial organization to increase both their metabolic efficiency and their resistance to changes in their local environment. These properties make biofilms an attractive target for engineering, particularly for the production of chemicals such as pharmaceutical ingredients or biofuels, with the potential to significantly improve yields and lower maintenance costs. Biofilms are also a major cause of persistent infection, and a better understanding of their organization could lead to new strategies for their disruption. Despite this potential, the design of synthetic biofilms remains a major challenge, due to the complex interplay between transcriptional regulation, intercellular signaling, and cell biophysics. Computational modeling could help to address this challenge by predicting the behavior of synthetic biofilms prior to their construction; however, multiscale modeling has so far not been achieved for realistic cell numbers. This paper presents a computational method for modeling synthetic microbial biofilms, which combines three-dimensional biophysical models of individual cells with models of genetic regulation and intercellular signaling. The method is implemented as a software tool (CellModeller), which uses parallel Graphics Processing Unit architectures to scale to more than 30,000 cells, typical of a 100 μm diameter colony, in 30 min of computation time.
In ACS Synthetic Biology
Publisher American Chemical Society