Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Polar features in the flagellar propulsion of E. coli bacteria

S. Bianchi, F. Saglimbeni, A. Lepore, and R. Di Leonardo

E. coli bacteria swim following a run and tumble pattern. In the run state all flagella join in a single helical bundle that propels the cell body along approximately straight paths. When one or more flagellar motors reverse direction the bundle unwinds and the cell randomizes its orientation. This basic picture represents an idealization of a much more complex dynamical problem. Although it has been shown that bundle formation can occur at either pole of the cell, it is still unclear whether these two run states correspond to asymmetric propulsion features. Using holographic microscopy we record the 3D motions of individual bacteria swimming in optical traps. We find that most cells possess two run states characterized by different propulsion forces, total torque, and bundle conformations. We analyze the statistical properties of bundle reversal and compare the hydrodynamic features of forward and backward running states. Our method is naturally multi-particle and opens up the way towards controlled hydrodynamic studies of interacting swimming cells.

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