8th February 2021

Rectification of twitching bacteria through narrow channels: A numerical simulations study

Bacteria living on surfaces use different types of motility mechanisms to move on the surface in search of food or to form microcolonies. Twitching is one such form of motility employed by bacteria such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae, in which the polymeric extensions known as type IV pili mediate its movement. Pili extending from the cell body adhere to the surface and pull the bacteria by retraction. The bacterial movement is decided by the two-dimensional tug-of-war among the pili attached to the surface. Natural surfaces on which these microcrawlers dwell are generally spatially inhomogeneous and have varying surface properties. Their motility is known to be affected by the topography of the surfaces. Therefore, it is possible to control bacterial movement by designing structured surfaces which can be potentially utilized for controlling biofilm architecture. In this paper, we numerically investigate the twitching motility in a two-dimensional corrugated channel. The bacterial movement is simulated by two different models: (a) a detailed tug-of-war model which extensively describe the twitching motility of bacteria assisted by pili and (b) a coarse-grained run-and-tumble model which depicts the motion of wide-ranging self-propelled particles. The simulation of bacterial motion through asymmetric corrugated channels using the above models show rectification. The bacterial transport depends on the geometric parameters of the channel and inherent system parameters such as persistence length and self-propelled velocity. In particular, the variation of the particle current with the geometric parameters of the microchannels shows that one can optimize the particle current for specific values of these parameters.

Rahul Marathe

Department of Physics,

MS-415, 3rd floor, Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Hauz khas, New Delhi, 110 016, India