Department of Biology
The Phage’s Groove
A bacteriophage (or phage for short) is a virus that infects bacteria, and requires the bacteria protein synthesis machinery to replicate. Phages are the most abundant and diverse biological organisms on earth. Bacteria-Phage interactions have been traditionally studied in well mixed environments, but it is becoming increasingly accepted that bacteria live in complex communities. Biofilms are a common form of bacterial organization in which cells stick to each other, and sometimes to a surface. They are surrounded by an extracellular matrix formed of polysaccharides, lipids, DNA , and proteins. Early biofilm research highlighted mushroom-shaped biofilm features, characterized by a narrow base and a spherical top. More recently, the idea of mushroom-like architecture as a core attribute of biofilms has been challenged and the concept of biofilm has been extended. Biofilms are commonly found in chronic infections and have been observed to protect bacteria from environmental hazards like antibiotics and phages. How do biofilms and phages interact? is still an open question. One way of studying Phage-Biofilm dynamics is through theory. Computational and mathematical models describing bacteria, virus, and their interactions are a powerful approach to study complex systems.
The piece, titled "The Phage's Groove," features a bacteriophage in the first plane with the standard morphology of the T4 virus. The phage is surrounded by mushroom-like waves that represent bacterial biofilms and make reference to the early paradigm of biofilms producing these shapes. The white wave being ejected from the virus serves a double purpose. First, it represents the viral genetic material being injected to the cell. Secondly, it alludes to the Lotka-Volterra model, with which these particular lines were calculated, commonly used to describe predator-prey dynamics in homogeneous environments. Inside the orange circles representing bacterial cells, there are differential equations that describe an original model used to study phage-biofilm dynamics by scientists at Georgia Tech. The color palette's brightness is a reflection of the often bright colors present in graphs and visualizations in the computational biology field. Moreover, the brightness of the colors helps accentuate the dynamic nature of the piece.