Research ArticleMICROBIOLOGY

Response thresholds in bacterial chemotaxis

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Science Advances  16 Oct 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 9, e1500299
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500299

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Stimulation of Escherichia coli by exponential ramps of chemoattractants generates step changes in the concentration of the response regulator, CheY-P. Because flagellar motors are ultrasensitive, this should change the fraction of time that motors spin clockwise, the CWbias. However, early work failed to show changes in CWbias when ramps were shallow. This was explained by a model for motor remodeling that predicted plateaus in plots of CWbias versus [CheY-P]. We looked for these plateaus by examining distributions of CWbias in populations of cells with different mean [CheY-P]. We did not find such plateaus. Hence, we repeated the work on shallow ramps and found that motors did indeed respond. These responses were quantitatively described by combining motor remodeling with ultrasensitivity in a model that exhibited high sensitivities over a wide dynamic range.

  • bacteria
  • motility
  • flagellar motor
  • switch

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