Bacterial filamentation drives colony chirality

Chirality is ubiquitous in nature, with consequences at the cellular and tissue scales. As Escherichia coli colonies expand radially, an orthogonal component of growth creates a pinwheel-like pattern that can be revealed by fluorescent markers. To elucidate the mechanistic basis of this colony chirality, we investigated its link to left-handed, single-cell twisting during E. coli elongation.

While chemical and genetic manipulation of cell width altered single-cell twisting handedness, colonies ceased to be chiral rather than switching handedness, and anaerobic growth altered colony chirality without affecting single-cell twisting. Chiral angle increased with increasing temperature even when growth rate decreased. Unifying these findings, we discovered that colony chirality was associated with the propensity for cell filamentation.

Inhibition of cell division accentuated chirality under aerobic growth and generated chirality under anaerobic growth. Thus, regulation of cell division is intrinsically coupled to colony chirality, providing a mechanism for tuning macroscale spatial patterning.

Authors: Andr&eacutes Aranda-D&iacuteaz, Cecilia Rodrigues, Alexandra Grote, Jiawei Sun, Carl Schreck, Oskar Hallatschek, Anton Souslov, Wolfram M&oumlbius, Kerwyn Huang