Multistrain microbial communities often exhibit complex spatial organization that emerges because of the interplay of various cooperative and competitive interaction mechanisms. One strong competitive mechanism is contact-dependent neighbor killing enabled by the type VI secretion system. It has been previously shown that contact-dependent killing can result in bistability of bacterial mixtures so that only one strain survives and displaces the other. However, it remains unclear whether stable coexistence is possible in such mixtures. Using a population dynamics model for two interacting bacterial strains, we found that coexistence can be made possible by the interplay of contact-dependent killing and long-range growth inhibition, leading to the formation of various cellular patterns. These patterns emerge in a much broader parameter range than that required for the linear Turing-like instability, suggesting this may be a robust mechanism for pattern formation.
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