Movie M5 from Quantitative modelling of nutrient-limited growth of bacterial colonies in microfluidic cultivation

Nutrient gradients and limitations play a pivotal role in the life of all microbes, both in their natural habitat as well as in artificial, microfluidic systems. Spatial concentration gradients of nutrients in densely packed cell configurations may locally affect the bacterial growth leading to heterogeneous micropopulations. A detailed understanding and quantitative modelling of cellular behaviour under nutrient limitations is thus highly desirable. We use microfluidic cultivations to investigate growth and microbial behaviour of the model organism Corynebacterium glutamicum under well-controlled conditions. With a reaction–diffusion-type model, parameters are extracted from steady-state experiments with a one-dimensional nutrient gradient. Subsequently, we employ particle-based simulations with these parameters to predict the dynamical growth of a colony in two dimensions. Comparing the results of those simulations with microfluidic experiments yields excellent agreement. Our modelling approach lays the foundation for a better understanding of dynamic microbial growth processes, both in nature and in applied biotechnology.