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Bacteria move towards favourable and away from toxic environments by changing their swimming pattern. This response is regulated by the chemotaxis signalling pathway, which has an important feature: it uses feedback to 'reset' (adapt) the bacterial sensing ability, which allows the bacteria to sense a range of background environmental changes. The role of this feedback has been studied extensively in the simple chemotaxis pathway of Escherichia coli. However it has been recently found that the majority of bacteria have multiple chemotaxis homologues of the E. coli proteins, resulting in more complex pathways. In this paper we investigate the configuration and role of feedback in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, a bacterium containing multiple homologues of the chemotaxis proteins found in E. coli. Multiple proteins could produce different possible feedback configurations, each having different chemotactic performance qualities and levels of robustness to variations and uncertainties in biological parameters and to intracellular noise. We develop four models corresponding to different feedback configurations. Using a series of carefully designed experiments we discriminate between these models and invalidate three of them. When these models are examined in terms of robustness to noise and parametric uncertainties, we find that the non-invalidated model is superior to the others. Moreover, it has a 'cascade control' feedback architecture which is used extensively in engineering to improve system performance, including robustness. Given that the majority of bacteria are known to have multiple chemotaxis pathways, in this paper we show that some feedback architectures allow them to have better performance than others. In particular, cascade control may be an important feature in achieving robust functionality in more complex signalling pathways and in improving their performance.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pcbi.1001130

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS Comput Biol

Publication Date

05/2011

Volume

7

Keywords

Bacterial Physiological Phenomena, Bacterial Proteins, Chemotactic Factors, Chemotaxis, Feedback, Physiological, Linear Models, Models, Biological, Reproducibility of Results, Rhodobacter sphaeroides, Systems Biology