Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 29779947
Cell 2018 06;174(1):143-155.e16
Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium responsible for meningitis and septicemia, proliferates and eventually fills the lumen of blood capillaries with multicellular aggregates. The impact of this aggregation process and its specific properties are unknown. We first show that aggregative properties are necessary for efficient infection and study their underlying physical mechanisms. Micropipette aspiration and single-cell tracking unravel unique features of an atypical fluidized phase, with single-cell diffusion exceeding that of isolated cells. A quantitative description of the bacterial pair interactions combined with active matter physics-based modeling show that this behavior relies on type IV pili active dynamics that mediate alternating phases of bacteria fast mutual approach, contact, and release. These peculiar fluid properties proved necessary to adjust to the geometry of capillaries upon bacterial proliferation. Intermittent attractive forces thus generate a fluidized phase that allows for efficient colonization of the blood capillary network during infection.