Apr 21, 2020

Ligand Sensing Enhances Bacterial Flagellar Motor Output via Stator Recruitment

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
F. NaazK. V. Venkatesh


The phenomenon of chemotaxis in bacteria, where the cells migrate towards or away from chemicals, has been extensively studied in the past. For flagellated bacteria such as Escherichia coli, a change in chemical concentration in its environment is sensed by a chemoreceptor and communicated via a well-characterised signalling pathway to the flagellar motor. It has been widely accepted that the signals change the rotation bias of the motor without influencing the motor speed. Here, we obtain results to the contrary and show that the bacteria is also capable of modulating motor speed on merely sensing a ligand. The response of single bacterial flagellar motors to step changes in ligand concentration demonstrate the presence of a sophisticated signalling pathway that controls the motor speed via recruitment of stators. Swimming speeds measured at the population level also corroborate the above observation. Experiments performed with mutant strains delineate the role of metabolism and sensing in the modulation of motor speed and show how speed changes along with changes in bias can significantly enhance bacteria's response to changes in its environment.

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