Modeling cooperating micro-organisms in antibiotic environment

Gilad Book, Colin Ingham, Gil Ariel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Recent experiments with the bacteria Paenibacillus vortex reveal a remarkable strategy enabling it to cope with antibiotics by cooperating with a different bacterium—Escherichia coli. While P. vortex is a highly effective swarmer, it is sensitive to the antibiotic ampicillin. On the other hand, E. coli can degrade ampicillin but is non-motile when grown on high agar percentages. The two bacterial species form a shared colony in which E. coli is transported by P. vortex and E. coli detoxifies the ampicillin. The paper presents a simplified model, consisting of coupled reaction-diffusion equations, describing the development of ring patterns in the shared colony. Our results demonstrate some of the possible cooperative movement strategies bacteria utilize in order to survive harsh conditions. In addition, we explore the behavior of mixed colonies under new conditions such as antibiotic gradients, synchronization between colonies and possible dynamics of a 3-species system including P. vortex, E. coli and a carbon producing algae that provides nutrients under illuminated, nutrient poor conditions. The derived model was able to simulate an asymmetric relationship between two or three micro-organisms where cooperation is required for survival. Computationally, in order to avoid numerical artifacts due to symmetries within the discretizing grid, the model was solved using a second order Vectorizable Random Lattices method, which is developed as a finite volume scheme on a random grid.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0190037
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Book et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


G.A. is supported by The Israel Science Foundation grant No. 373/16. C.I. is supported by the NL BE-Basic Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. There was no additional external funding received for this study. Hoekmine BV was not involved in any level except as the employer of CI. Hoekmine had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. G.A. is thankful for partial support from The Israel Science Foundation grant No. 373/16. C.I. thanks the NL BE-Basic Foundation. We thank Alin Finkeshtein and Mark Polikovsky for sharing unpublished data.

FundersFunder number
Kinetic Foundation
Israel Science Foundation373/16


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