Recording multicellular behavior in Myxococcus xanthus biofilms using time-lapse microcinematography

Rion G. Taylor, Roy D. Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A swarm of the δ-proteobacterium Myxococcus xanthus contains millions of cells that act as a collective, coordinating movement through a series of signals to create complex, dynamic patterns as a response to environmental cues. These patterns are self-organizing and emergent; they cannot be predicted by observing the behavior of the individual cells. Using a time-lapse microcinematography tracking assay, we identified a distinct emergent pattern in M. xanthus called chemotaxis, defined as the directed movement of a swarm up a nutrient gradient toward its source1. In order to efficiently characterize chemotaxis via time-lapse microcinematography, we developed a highly modifiable plate complex (Figure 1) and constructed a cluster of 8 microscopes (Figure 2), each capable of capturing time-lapse videos. The assay is rigorous enough to allow consistent replication of quantifiable data, and the resulting videos allow us to observe and track subtle changes in swarm behavior. Once captured, the videos are transferred to an analysis/storage computer with enough memory to process and store thousands of videos. The flexibility of this setup has proven useful to several members of the M. xanthus community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2038
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number42
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Chemotaxis
  • Issue 42
  • Microbiology
  • Microcinematography
  • Myxococcus
  • Time-lapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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