Fixed nitrogen dynamics and heterocyst patterning in filamentous heterocystous cyanobacteria
Brown, Aidan I
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Cyanobacteria are prokaryotes that can grow photoautotrophically using oxygenic photosynthesis. Some filamentous cyanobacteria in media with insufficient fixed nitrogen develop a regular pattern of heterocyst cells that fix nitrogen for the remaining vegetative cells. We have built an integrated computational model of fixed nitrogen transport and cell growth for filamentous cyanobacteria. With our model, two qualitatively different experimentally observed nitrogen distributions between a pair of heterocysts are reconciled. By adding dynamic heterocyst placement into our model, we can optimize heterocyst frequency with respect to growth. Further introduction of modest leakage leads to distinct growth rates between different heterocyst placement strategies. A local placement strategy yields maximal growth and steady state heterocyst spacings similar to those observed experimentally. Adding more realistic fixed nitrogen storage based heterocyst commitment together with lateral inhibition to the model allows us to address initial heterocyst commitment and qualitatively reproduces many aspects of heterocyst differentiation. We also investigate patterns of starving cells and correlations of fixed nitrogen in filaments without heterocysts. We find percolation transitions in both spatial one dimensional patterns and space-time two dimensional patterns.