Optimal chemotactic responses in stochastic environments
Although the “adaptive” strategy used by Escherichia coli has dominated our understanding of bacterial chemotaxis, the environmental conditions under which this strategy emerged is still poorly understood. In this work, we study the performance of various chemotactic strategies under a range of stochastic time- and space-varying attractant distributions in silico. We describe a novel “speculator” response in which the bacterium compare the current attractant concentration to the long-term average; if it is higher then they tumble persistently, while if it is lower than the average, bacteria swim away in search of more favorable conditions. We demonstrate how this response explains the experimental behavior of aerobically-grown Rhodobacter sphaeroides and that under spatially complex but slowly-changing nutrient conditions the speculator response is as effective as the adaptive strategy of E. coli.