Seminar by William P. J. Smith – University of Copenhagen

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Seminar by William P. J. Smith

Cell shape: influences within microbial communities

William P. J. Smith, University of Oxford

Microbial communities contain cells of different shapes, and yet we know little about how these shapes affect community biology. We have developed a computational model to study the effects of microbial shape in communities. Our model predicts that shape will have strong effects on cells’ positioning, and, consequently, their survival and reproduction. Rod-shaped cells are better at colonizing the base of the community and its expanding edges, whereas round cells dominate the upper surface. We show that the same patterns occur in colonies of Escherichia coli, using strains with different shapes. Our work suggests that cell shape is a major determinant of patterning and evolutionary fitness within microbial communities.