Istituto di Biofisica     
Marangoni R., Preosti G., Colombetti G. Phototactic orientation mechanism in the ciliate Fabrea salina, as inferred from numerical simulations. In: Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B-Biology, vol. 54 (2-3) pp. 185 - 193. Elsevier, 2000.
The marine ciliate Fabrea salina shows a clear positive phototaxis, but the mechanism by which a single cell is able to detect the direction of light and orient its swimming accordingly is still unknown. A simple model of phototaxis is that of a biased random walk, where the bias due to light can affect one or more of the parameters that characterize a random walk, i.e., the mean speed, the frequency distribution of the angles of directional changes and the frequency of directional changes. Since experimental evidence has shown no effect of light on the mean speed of Fabrea salina, we have excluded models depending on this parameter. We have, therefore, investigated the phototactic orientation of Fabrea salina by computer simulation of two simple models, the first where light affects the frequency distribution of the angles of directional changes (model M1) and the second where the light bias modifies the frequency of directional changes (model M2). Simulated M1 cells directly orient their swimming towards the direction of light, regardless of their current swimming orientation; simulated M2 cells, on the contrary, are unable to actively orient their motion, but remain locked along the light direction once they find it by chance. The simulations show that these two orientation models lead to different macroscopic behaviours of the simulated cell populations. By comparing the results of the simulations with the experimental ones, we have found that the phototactic behaviour of real cells is more similar to that of the M2 model.
DOI: 10.1016/S1011-1344(00)00015-4
Subject Fabrea salina
Biased random walk
Orientation mechanism

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