Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bacteria use Batman-like grappling hooks to 'slingshot' on surfaces, study shows

Date:
July 19, 2011
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
Researchers have diagnosed a complex sequence of movements that make-up the "twitching" motility in bacteria with type IV pili (TFP). TFP act like Batman's grappling hooks that extend and bind to a surface to retract and pull the cell along. Using a high-speed camera and a novel two-point tracking algorithm, researchers also noticed the bacteria had the additional capability to "slingshot" on surfaces.

Slingshot bacteria.
Credit: Image courtesy of UCLA

Bacteria use various appendages to move across surfaces prior to forming multicellular bacterial biofilms. Some species display a particularly jerky form of movement known as "twitching" motility, which is made possible by hairlike structures on their surface called type IV pili, or TFP.

Related Articles


"TFP act like Batman's grappling hooks," said Gerard Wong, a professor of bioengineering and of chemistry and biochemistry at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA. "These grappling hooks can extend and bind to a surface and retract and pull the cell along."

In a study to be published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Wong and his colleagues at UCLA Engineering identify the complex sequence of movements that make up this twitching motility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a biofilm-forming pathogen partly responsible for the deadly infections seen in cystic fibrosis.

During their observations, Wong and his team made a surprising discovery. Using a high-speed camera and a novel two-point tracking algorithm, they noticed that the bacteria had the unique ability to "slingshot" on surfaces.

The team found that linear translational pulls of constant velocity alternated with velocity spikes that were 20 times faster but lasted only milliseconds. This action would repeat over and over again.

"The constant velocity is due to the pulling by multiple TFP; the velocity spike is due to the release of a single TFP," Wong said. "The release action leads to a fast slingshot motion that actually turns the bacteria efficiently by allowing it to over-steer."

The ability to turn and change direction is essential for bacteria to adapt to continually changing surface conditions as they form biofilms. The researchers found that the slingshot motion helped P. aeruginosa move much more efficiently through the polysaccharides they secrete on surfaces during biofilm formation, a phenomenon known as shear-thinning.

"If you look at the surfaces the bacteria have to move on, they are usually covered in goop. Bacterial cells secrete polysaccharides on surfaces, which are kind of like molasses," Wong said. "Because these polysaccharides are long polymer molecules that can get entangled, these are very viscous and can potentially impede movement. However, if you move very fast in these polymer fluids, the viscosity becomes much lower compared to when you're moving slowly. The fluid will then seem more like water than molasses. This kind of phenomenon is well known to chemical engineers and physicists."

Since the twitching motion of bacteria with TFP depends of the physical distributions of TFP on the surface of individual cells, Wong hopes that the analysis of motility patterns may in the future enable new methods for biometric "fingerprinting" of individual cells for single-cell diagnostics.

"It gives us the possibility of not just identifying species of bacteria but the possibility of also identifying individual cells. Perhaps in the future, we can look at a cell and try to find the same cell later on the basis of how it moves," he said.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The lead authors are Fan Jin from the UCLA Department of Bioengineering, the UCLA Department Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the CNSI, and Jacinta C. Conrad of the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. The original article was written by Wileen Wong Kromhout. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Fan Jin, Jacinta C. Conrad, Maxsim L. Gibiansky, Gerard C. L. Wong. Bacteria use type-IV pili to slingshot on surfaces. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1105073108

Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "Bacteria use Batman-like grappling hooks to 'slingshot' on surfaces, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110718171407.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2011, July 19). Bacteria use Batman-like grappling hooks to 'slingshot' on surfaces, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110718171407.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "Bacteria use Batman-like grappling hooks to 'slingshot' on surfaces, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110718171407.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins