Bacterial Chemotaxis in an Optical Trap

An optical trapping technique is implemented to investigate the chemotactic behavior of a marine bacterial strain Vibrio alginolyticus. The technique takes the advantage that the bacterium has only a single polar flagellum, which can rotate either in the counter-clock-wise or clock-wise direction. The two rotation states of the motor can be readily and instantaneously resolved in the optical trap, allowing the flagellar motor switching rate to be measured under different chemical stimulations. In this paper the focus will be on the bacterial response to an impulsive change of chemoattractant serine. Despite different propulsion apparati and motility patterns, cells of V. alginolyticus apparently use a similar response as Escherichia coli to regulate their chemotactic behavior. Specifically, we found that the switching rate of the bacterial motor exhibits a biphasic behavior, showing a fast initial response followed by a slow relaxation to the steady-state switching rate . The measured can be mimicked by a model that has been recently proposed for chemotaxis in E. coli. The similarity in the response to the brief chemical stimulation in these two different bacteria is striking, suggesting that the biphasic response may be evolutionarily conserved. This study also demonstrated that optical tweezers can be a useful tool for chemotaxis studies and should be applicable to other polarly flagellated bacteria.


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