Bacteria swim in sequences of straight runs that are interrupted by turning events. They drive their swimming locomotion with the help of rotating helical flagella. Depending on the number of flagella and their arrangement across the cell body, different run-and-turn patterns can be observed. Here, we present fluorescence microscopy recordings showing that cells of the soil bacterium Pseudomonas putida that are decorated with a polar tuft of helical flagella, can alternate between two distinct swimming patterns. On the one hand, they can undergo a classical push-pull-push cycle that is well known from monopolarly flagellated bacteria but has not been reported for species with a polar bundle of multiple flagella. Alternatively, upon leaving the pulling mode, they can enter a third slow swimming phase, where they propel themselves with their helical bundle wrapped around the cell body. A theoretical estimate based on a random-walk model shows that the spreading of a population of swimmers is strongly enhanced when cycling through a sequence of pushing, pulling, and wrapped flagellar configurations as compared to the simple push-pull-push pattern.
Scientific Reports – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 1, 2017
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