Microorganisms swimming through viscous fluids imprint their propulsion mechanisms in the flow fields they generate. Extreme confinement of these swimmers between rigid boundaries often arises in natural and technological contexts, yet measurements of their mechanics in this regime are absent. Here, we show that strongly confining the microalga Chlamydomonas between two parallel plates not only inhibits its motility through contact friction with the walls but also leads, for purely mechanical reasons, to inversion of the surrounding vortex flows. Insights from the experiment lead to a simplified theoretical description of flow fields based on a quasi-2D Brinkman approximation to the Stokes equation rather than the usual method of images. We argue that this vortex flow inversion provides the advantage of enhanced fluid mixing despite higher friction. Overall, our results offer a comprehensive framework for analyzing the collective flows of strongly confined swimmers.
All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. Separate source data files containing source data for each subfigure have been provided. A source code file containing the custom-written MATLAB codes has also been provided.
- Prerna Sharma
- Sriram Ramaswamy
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Raymond E Goldstein, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
© 2021, Mondal et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Elucidating the design principles of regulatory networks driving cellular decision-making has fundamental implications in mapping and eventually controlling cell-fate decisions. Despite being complex, these regulatory networks often only give rise to a few phenotypes. Previously, we identified two ‘teams’ of nodes in a small cell lung cancer regulatory network that constrained the phenotypic repertoire and aligned strongly with the dominant phenotypes obtained from network simulations (Chauhan et al., 2021). However, it remained elusive whether these ‘teams’ exist in other networks, and how do they shape the phenotypic landscape. Here, we demonstrate that five different networks of varying sizes governing epithelial–mesenchymal plasticity comprised of two ‘teams’ of players – one comprised of canonical drivers of epithelial phenotype and the other containing the mesenchymal inducers. These ‘teams’ are specific to the topology of these regulatory networks and orchestrate a bimodal phenotypic landscape with the epithelial and mesenchymal phenotypes being more frequent and dynamically robust to perturbations, relative to the intermediary/hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal ones. Our analysis reveals that network topology alone can contain information about corresponding phenotypic distributions, thus obviating the need to simulate them. We propose ‘teams’ of nodes as a network design principle that can drive cell-fate canalization in diverse decision-making processes.
The movement trajectories of organisms serve as dynamic read-outs of their behaviour and physiology. For microorganisms this can be difficult to resolve due to their small size and fast movement. Here, we devise a novel droplet microfluidics assay to encapsulate single micron-sized algae inside closed arenas, enabling ultralong high-speed tracking of the same cell. Comparing two model species - Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (freshwater, 2 cilia), and Pyramimonas octopus (marine, 8 cilia), we detail their highly-stereotyped yet contrasting swimming behaviours and environmental interactions. By measuring the rates and probabilities with which cells transition between a trio of motility states (smooth-forward swimming, quiescence, tumbling or excitable backward swimming), we reconstruct the control network that underlies this gait switching dynamics. A simplified model of cell-roaming in circular confinement reproduces the observed long-term behaviours and spatial fluxes, including novel boundary circulation behaviour. Finally, we establish an assay in which pairs of droplets are fused on demand, one containing a trapped cell with another containing a chemical that perturbs cellular excitability, to reveal how aneural microorganisms adapt their locomotor patterns in real-time.