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Artificial Life

Spring 2010, Vol. 16, No. 2, Pages 155-177
(doi: 10.1162/artl.2010.16.2.16203)
© 2010 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Biomimetic Control Based on a Model of Chemotaxis in Escherichia coli
Article PDF (946.51 KB)

In the field of molecular biology, extending now to the more comprehensive area of systems biology, the development of computer models for synthetic cell simulation has accelerated extensively and has begun to be used for various purposes, such as biochemical analysis. These models, describing the highly efficient environmental searching mechanisms and adaptability of living organisms, can be used as machine-control algorithms in the field of systems engineering. To realize this biomimetic intelligent control, we require a stripped-down model that expresses a series of information-processing tasks from stimulation input to movement. Here we selected the bacterium Escherichia coli as a target organism because it has a relatively simple molecular and organizational structure, which can be characterized using biochemical and genetic analyses. We particularly focused on a motility response known as chemotaxis and developed a computer model that includes not only intracellular information processing but also motor control. After confirming the effectiveness and validity of the proposed model by a series of computer simulations, we applied it to a mobile robot control problem. This is probably the first study showing that a bacterial model can be used as an autonomous control algorithm. Our results suggest that many excellent models proposed thus far for biochemical purposes can be applied to problems in other fields.