The Dienes Phenomenon: Competition and Territoriality in Swarming Proteus mirabilis

A.E. Budding, C.A. Ingham, W. Bitter, C.M.J.E. Vandenbroucke-Grauls, P.M. Schneeberger, C. J. Ingham

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When two different strains of swarming Proteus mirabilis encounter one another on an agar plate, swarming ceases and a visible line of demarcation forms. This boundary region is known as the Dienes line and is associated with the formation of rounded cells. While the Dienes line appears to be the product of distinction between self and nonself, many aspects of its formation and function are unclear. In this work, we studied Dienes line formation using clinical isolates labeled with fluorescent proteins. We show that round cells in the Dienes line originate exclusively from one of the swarms involved and that these round cells have decreased viability. In this sense one of the swarms involved is dominant over the other. Close cell proximity is required for Dienes line formation, and when strains initiate swarming in close proximity, the dominant Dienes type has a significant competitive advantage. When one strain is killed by UV irradiation, a Dienes line does not form. Killing of the dominant strain limits the induction of round cells. We suggest that both strains are actively involved in boundary formation and that round cell formation is the result of a short-range killing mechanism that mediates a competitive advantage, an advantage highly specific to the swarming state. Dienes line formation has implications for the physiology of swarming and social recognition in bacteria
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3892-3900
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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