Bacterial Swarmers Enriched During Intestinal Stress Ameliorate Damage

Arpan De, Weijie Chen, Hao Li, Justin R. Wright, Regina Lamendella, Dana J. Lukin, Wendy A. Szymczak, Katherine Sun, Libusha Kelly, Subho Ghosh, Daniel B. Kearns, Zhen He, Christian Jobin, Xiaoping Luo, Arjun Byju, Shirshendu Chatterjee, Beng San Yeoh, Matam Vijay-Kumar, Jay X. Tang, Milankumar PrajapatiThomas B. Bartnikas, Sridhar Mani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Bacterial swarming, a collective movement on a surface, has rarely been associated with human pathophysiology. This study aims to define a role for bacterial swarmers in amelioration of intestinal stress. Methods: We developed a polymicrobial plate agar assay to detect swarming and screened mice and humans with intestinal stress and inflammation. From chemically induced colitis in mice, as well as humans with inflammatory bowel disease, we developed techniques to isolate the dominant swarmers. We developed swarm-deficient but growth and swim-competent mutant bacteria as isogenic controls. We performed bacterial reinoculation studies in mice with colitis, fecal 16S, and meta-transcriptomic analyses, as well as in vitro microbial interaction studies. Results: We show that bacterial swarmers are highly predictive of intestinal stress in mice and humans. We isolated a novel Enterobacter swarming strain, SM3, from mouse feces. SM3 and other known commensal swarmers, in contrast to their mutant strains, abrogated intestinal inflammation in mice. Treatment of colitic mice with SM3, but not its mutants, enriched beneficial fecal anaerobes belonging to the family of Bacteroidales S24-7. We observed SM3 swarming associated pathways in the in vivo fecal meta-transcriptomes. In vitro growth of S24-7 was enriched in presence of SM3 or its mutants; however, because SM3, but not mutants, induced S24-7 in vivo, we concluded that swarming plays an essential role in disseminating SM3 in vivo. Conclusions: Overall, our work identified a new but counterintuitive paradigm in which intestinal stress allows for the emergence of swarming bacteria; however, these bacteria act to heal intestinal inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-224
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Enterobacter
  • Feces
  • Intestinal Stress
  • Protection
  • S24-7

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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