Time-Lapse Imaging of Bacterial Swarms and the Collective Stress Response

This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

Swarming is a form of surface motility observed in many bacterial species including Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli. Here, dense populations of bacteria move over large distances in characteristic tendril-shaped communities over the course of hours. Swarming is sensitive to several factors including medium moisture, humidity, and nutrient content. In addition, the collective stress response, which is observed in P. aeruginosa that are stressed by antibiotics or phage, repels swarms from approaching the area containing the stress. The methods described here address how to control the critical factors that affect swarming. We introduce a simple method to monitor swarming dynamics and the collective stress response with high temporal resolution using a flatbed document scanner, and describe how to compile and perform a quantitative analysis of swarms. This simple and cost-effective method provides precise and well-controlled quantification of swarming and may be extended to other types of plate-based growth assays and bacterial species.