Environmental and ecological controls of the spatial distribution of microbial populations in aggregates

Martínez-Rabert, E. , van Amstel, C., Smith, C. , Sloan, W. T. and Gonzalez-Cabaleiro, R. (2022) Environmental and ecological controls of the spatial distribution of microbial populations in aggregates. PLoS Computational Biology, 18(12), e1010807. (doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1010807) (PMID:36534694) (PMCID:PMC9810174)

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In microbial communities, the ecological interactions between species of different populations are responsible for the spatial distributions observed in aggregates (granules, biofilms or flocs). To explore the underlying mechanisms that control these processes, we have developed a mathematical modelling framework able to describe, label and quantify defined spatial structures that arise from microbial and environmental interactions in communities. An artificial system of three populations collaborating or competing in an aggregate is simulated using individual-based modelling under different environmental conditions. In this study, neutralism, competition, commensalism and concurrence of commensalism and competition have been considered. We were able to identify interspecific segregation of communities that appears in competitive environments (columned stratification), and a layered distribution of populations that emerges in commensal (layered stratification). When different ecological interactions were considered in the same aggregate, the resultant spatial distribution was identified as the one controlled by the most limiting substrate. A theoretical modulus was defined, with which we were able to quantify the effect of environmental conditions and ecological interactions to predict the most probable spatial distribution. The specific microbial patterns observed in our results allowed us to identify the optimal spatial organizations for bacteria to thrive when building a microbial community and how this permitted co-existence of populations at different growth rates. Our model reveals that although ecological relationships between different species dictate the distribution of bacteria, the environment controls the final spatial distribution of the community. [Abstract copyright: Copyright: © 2022 Martinez-Rabert 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.]

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gonzalez-Cabaleiro, Dr Rebeca and Martínez-Rabert, Eloi and Sloan, Professor William and Smith, Professor Cindy
Creator Roles:
Martínez-Rabert, E.Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Software, Validation, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing
Smith, C.Funding acquisition, Writing – review and editing
Sloan, W. T.Funding acquisition, Writing – review and editing
Gonzalez-Cabaleiro, R.Conceptualization, Methodology, Supervision, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Martínez-Rabert, E., van Amstel, C., Smith, C., Sloan, W. T., and Gonzalez-Cabaleiro, R.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Infrastructure and Environment
Journal Name:PLoS Computational Biology
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN (Online):1553-7358
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 Martinez-Rabert et al.
First Published:First published in PLoS Computational Biology 18(12): e1010807
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
305200DTP 2018-19 University of GlasgowMary Beth KneafseyEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/R513222/1MVLS - Graduate School