Mechanism of bidirectional thermotaxis in Escherichia coli

Anja Paulick, Vladimir Jakovljevic, Siming Zhang, Michael Erickstad, Alex Groisman, Yigal Meir, William S. Ryu, Ned S. Wingreen, Victor Sourjik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


In bacteria various tactic responses are mediated by the same cellular pathway, but sensing of physical stimuli remains poorly understood. Here, we combine an in-vivo analysis of the pathway activity with a microfluidic taxis assay and mathematical modeling to investigate the thermotactic response of Escherichia coli. We show that in the absence of chemical attractants E. coli exhibits a steady thermophilic response, the magnitude of which decreases at higher temperatures. Adaptation of wild-type cells to high levels of chemoattractants sensed by only one of the major chemoreceptors leads to inversion of the thermotactic response at intermediate temperatures and bidirectional cell accumulation in a thermal gradient. A mathematical model can explain this behavior based on the saturation-dependent kinetics of adaptive receptor methylation. Lastly, we find that the preferred accumulation temperature corresponds to optimal growth in the presence of the chemoattractant serine, pointing to a physiological relevance of the observed thermotactic behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere26607
StatePublished - Aug 3 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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    Paulick, A., Jakovljevic, V., Zhang, S., Erickstad, M., Groisman, A., Meir, Y., Ryu, W. S., Wingreen, N. S., & Sourjik, V. (2017). Mechanism of bidirectional thermotaxis in Escherichia coli. eLife, 6, [e26607].