MiS Preprint Repository

We have decided to discontinue the publication of preprints on our preprint server as of 1 March 2024. The publication culture within mathematics has changed so much due to the rise of repositories such as ArXiV ( that we are encouraging all institute members to make their preprints available there. An institute's repository in its previous form is, therefore, unnecessary. The preprints published to date will remain available here, but we will not add any new preprints here.

MiS Preprint

Making waves: Pattern formation by a cell surface-associated signal

Angela Stevens and Lotte Sogaard-Andersen


Starving Myxococcus xanthus cells organise into two strikingly different spatio-temporal patterns: rippling or aggregation of cells into fruiting bodies. Formation of both patterns depends on a cell surface-associated, non-diffusible signal, the C-signal. A key motility parameter modulated by the C-signal during pattern formation is the frequency at which cells reverse their gliding direction, with low and high levels of C-signalling causing an increase and a decrease in the reversal frequency, respectively. Recently, a simple yet elegant mathematical model was proposed to explain the mechanism underlying the non-linear dependence of the reversal frequency on C-signalling levels. The mathematical solution hinges on the introduction of a negative feedback loop into the biochemical circuit that regulates the reversal frequency. This system displays an oscillatory behaviour in which the oscillation frequency depends in a non-monotonic manner on the level of C-signalling. Thus, the biochemical oscillator recapitulates the effect of the C-signal on the reversal frequency. The challenge for biologists is now to test the mathematical model experimentally.

biological oscillations, pattern formation, negative feedback, mathematical modelling, intercellular signalling, chemosensory systems, myxococcus xanthus, gliding motility

Related publications

2005 Repository Open Access
Angela Stevens and L Sogaard-Andersen

Making waves : pattern formation by a cell-surface-associated signal

In: Trends in microbiology, 13 (2005) 6, pp. 249-252