Measuring and modelling intercellular communication in multicellular cyanobacteria

Conrad Mullineaux (primary)
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Chris Duffy (secondary)
School of Biological & Chemical Sciences
Queen Mary, University of London


Filamentous cyanobacteria such as Anabaena and its relatives are sophisticated multicellular prokaryotes that exhibit cell differentiation, pattern formation and co-ordinated gliding motility. These features depend on the rapid intercellular exchange of molecules. Prof Mullineaux and collaborators have developed fluorescence microscopic techniques to trace this molecular trafficking in real time, and have begun to characterise the structures that enable it, which are functionally analogous to metazoan gap junctions. This project will combine these experimental approaches with computational modelling under the supervision of Dr Duffy for quantitative understanding of the roles of intercellular communication in multicellular biochemistry, pattern formation and co-ordinated behaviour.


1. Nürnberg DJ, Mariscal V, Bornikoel J, Nieves-Morión M, Krauß N, Herrero A, Maldener I, Flores E, Mullineaux CW (2015) Intercellular diffusion of a fluorescent sucrose analog via the septal junctions in a filamentous cyanobacterium. mBio 6 (2), e02109-14.
2. Mullineaux CW, Nürnberg DJ (2014) Tracing the path of a prokaryotic paracrine signal. Mol. Microbiol. 94, 1208-1212.
3. Nieves-Morión M, Mullineaux CW, Flores E (2017) Molecular diffusion through cyanobacterial septal junctions. mBio 8: e01756-16
4. Mullineaux CW, Mariscal V, Nenninger A, Khanum H, Herrero A, Flores E, Adams DG (2008) Mechanism of intercellular molecular exchange in heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria. EMBO J 27, 1299-1308.
5. Erban R, Chapman J, Maini P (2007) A practical guide to stochastic simulations of reaction-diffusion processes. arXiv:0704.1908

Molecules, cells and industrial biotechnology
Area of Biology
Cell BiologyMicrobiology
Techniques & Approaches
BiophysicsImage ProcessingMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologySimulation / Modelling