Spiroplasma swim by a processive change in body helicity

Joshua W. Shaevitz, Joanna Y. Lee, Daniel A. Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-945
Number of pages5
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 23 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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