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view/download model file: SlimeAggregation.nlogo
This program simulates the aggregation of the cellular slime mold
Dictyostelium discoideum in both the spiral and streaming stages.
When Dictyostelium amoebae are starved on an agar surface they
begin to aggregate, forming complex spatial patterns as they
do so. Aggregation leads to the formation of a multicellular organism,
called a slug, consisting of about 10,000 to 100,000 cells, that can move
about on the substrate for some time. Eventually, the slug develops into a
fruiting body, a spherical stalk with a cap on top that contains spores.
Under the appropriate conditions the spores can be released and germinate,
thus completing the cycle.
The amoebae coordinate their movement by secreting cyclic adenosine
monophosphate (cAMP) and by moving up the resulting cAMP gradient. More
specifically, the aggregating cells follow this set of behavioral rules:
- if a cell senses a concentration of cAMP above the movement threshold,
it aligns itself with the cAMP gradient and moves towards
the highest cAMP concentration
- if a cell senses a concentration of cAMP above the relay threshold
(which is believed to be higher than the movement threshold), the
cell (after moving) emits 100 units of cAMP and enters a "refractory"
state for a specified number of time steps
- cells that are in the refractory state are insensitive to cAMP, thereby
disabling chemotactic movement and cAMP secretion; instead, these cells
gradually break down the cAMP in their locality, by means of an enzyme
A percentage of the cells are "distressed" (starving) and
release cAMP at regular intervals, regardless of the chemical
concentration there. These autonomous cells have been observed
experimentally. With each time step, patches share 50% of their cAMP
content with the eight neighboring patches.
The SETUP button creates a random distribution of slime mold cells and prints
a color key in the command window.
The GO button sets the model in motion according to the rules outlined above.
The DENSITY slider specifies the initial density of slime mold cells; if
the density is too high given the size of the screen, an error message will
appear in the command center when executing setup.
The PERIOD slider controls the length of the refractory period; this is also
the number of time steps between cAMP releases by the autonomous cell in
the center of the screen.
The MOV_THRESHOLD and REL_THRESHOLD sliders denote the concentration of
cAMP required for movement and relay response, respectively.
The FIELD DISP ON and FIELD DISP OFF buttons turn on/off display of the cAMP
field. The chemical concentration is displayed as shades of green (from white
= highest concentration to black = lowest).
The streaming patterns develop gradually and consistently, but can are
affected by changes in the slider variables. "Period" must be high enough
to allow cAMP waves to remain distinct as they propogate from the center;
otherwise, waves can intermingle in areas of irregular density to create
self-feeding spirals that serve as new aggregation centers. Also,
modification of the thresholds can result in slightly different patterns.
The model is generally less sensitive to changes in density.
Experiment with the thresholds to see how they affect the streams and the rate of aggregation.
The slime mold amoebae end up on top of one another. Some device could be used to indicate how many amoebae are occupying each patch.
See Slime in the Biology models for a model of a different aspect of slime mold aggregation.
Original program for StarLogo 2 by Steve Camazine. Modified to run on NetLogo and to show chemical field and allow movie recording by B.J. MacLennan 2003, 2006.