5 years ago

Osmotaxis in Escherichia coli through changes in motor speed [Biophysics and Computational Biology]

Osmotaxis in Escherichia coli through changes in motor speed [Biophysics and Computational Biology]
Jerko Rosko, Teuta Pilizota, Wilson C. K. Poon, Vincent A. Martinez

Bacterial motility, and in particular repulsion or attraction toward specific chemicals, has been a subject of investigation for over 100 years, resulting in detailed understanding of bacterial chemotaxis and the corresponding sensory network in many bacterial species. For Escherichia coli most of the current understanding comes from the experiments with low levels of chemotactically active ligands. However, chemotactically inactive chemical species at concentrations found in the human gastrointestinal tract produce significant changes in E. coli’s osmotic pressure and have been shown to lead to taxis. To understand how these nonspecific physical signals influence motility, we look at the response of individual bacterial flagellar motors under stepwise changes in external osmolarity. We combine these measurements with a population swimming assay under the same conditions. Unlike for chemotactic response, a long-term increase in swimming/motor speeds is observed, and in the motor rotational bias, both of which scale with the osmotic shock magnitude. We discuss how the speed changes we observe can lead to steady-state bacterial accumulation.

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