Microscopic organisms must rely on very different strategies than their macroscopic counterparts to swim through liquid. To date, the best understood method for prokaryotic swimming employs the rotation of flagella. Here, we show that Spiroplasma, tiny helical bacteria that infect plants and insects, use a very different approach. By measuring cell kinematics during free swimming, we find that propulsion is generated by the propagation of kink pairs down the length of the cell body. A processive change in the helicity of the body creates these waves and enables directional movement.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)