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Molecular brake for the bacterial flagellar nano-motor

Date:
March 31, 2010
Source:
University of Biozentrum Basel
Summary:
Researchers have now discovered that Escherichia coli bacteria harness a sophisticated chemosensory and signal transduction machinery that allows them to accurately control motor rotation, thereby adjusting their swimming velocity in response to changing environments. The research may foster the development of novel strategies to fight persistent infections.

Trajectories of swimming E.Coli bacteria.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Biozentrum Basel

Biozentrum researchers have now discovered that Escherichia coli bacteria harness a sophisticated chemosensory and signal transduction machinery that allows them to accurately control motor rotation, thereby adjusting their swimming velocity in response to changing environments. The research results that were published online in Cell on March 18, 2010, may foster the development of novel strategies to fight persistent infections.

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Bacteria can swim through liquids at speeds up to 30 times their body length per second. It has been known for a long time that different bacterial species swim at different speeds, but it was not known if this is a species specific trait and if bacteria can actively adjust their velocity.

The research team from Switzerland and Germany, led by Alex Böhm and Urs Jenal from the Biozentrum has now discovered that E. coli, and probably many other bacteria can actively regulate their swimming velocity.

This behaviour is governed by a molecular motor-brake protein that upon binding of the bacterial second messenger cyclic dimeric GMP interacts with a specific subunit of the flagellar nano-motor and thereby curbs motor output. The intracellular concentration of cyclic dimeric GMP is controlled by a network of signaling proteins. When bacteria are faced with nutrient depletion this network is actived, produces more cyclic dimeric GMP and triggers motor-brake engagement. Because slow swimming enhances the probability of a bacterial cell to permanently attach to surfaces, this behaviour might prime bacteria to switch into a sessile life style.

olonization of epithelial surfaces in the human host can lead to the formation of antibiotic tolerant and immune system resistent 'biofilms' that are the basis of many chronic bacterial infections. Thus, understanding the molecular basis of surface colonization and biofilm formation may foster the development of novel strategies to fight persistent infections. In addition, the discovery of flagellar motor curbing could be exploited for biotechnological applications, for example to engineer nanopumps in microfluidics or to build cell-based microrobots.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Biozentrum Basel. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alex Boehm, Matthias Kaiser, Hui Li, Christian Spangler, Christoph Alexander Kasper, Martin Ackermann, Volkhard Kaever, Victor Sourjik, Volker Roth, and Urs Jenal. Second Messenger-Mediated Adjustment of Bacterial Swimming Velocity. Cell, 2010 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.01.018

Cite This Page:

University of Biozentrum Basel. "Molecular brake for the bacterial flagellar nano-motor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210442.htm>.
University of Biozentrum Basel. (2010, March 31). Molecular brake for the bacterial flagellar nano-motor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210442.htm
University of Biozentrum Basel. "Molecular brake for the bacterial flagellar nano-motor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210442.htm (accessed January 28, 2015).

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