One approach to understanding how life-like properties emerge involves building synthetic cellular systems that mimic certain dynamical features of living cells such as bacteria. Here, we developed a model of a reaction network in a cellular system inspired by the ability of bacteria to form a biofilm in response to increasing cell density. Our aim was to determine the role of chemical feedback in the dynamics. The feedback was applied through the enzymatic rate dependence on pH, as pH is an important parameter that controls the rates of processes in cells. We found that a switch in pH can be used to drive base-catalyzed gelation or precipitation of a substance in the external solution. A critical density of cells was required for gelation that was essentially independent of the pH-driven feedback. However, the cell pH reached a higher maximum as a result of the appearance of pH oscillations with feedback. Thus, we conclude that while feedback may not play a vital role in some density-dependent behavior in cellular systems, it nevertheless can be exploited to activate internally regulated cell processes at low cell densities.
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