Research ArticleBIOPHYSICS

A molecular rack and pinion actuates a cell-surface adhesin and enables bacterial gliding motility

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Science Advances  04 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 10, eaay6616
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay6616


The gliding bacterium Flavobacterium johnsoniae is known to have an adhesin, SprB, that moves along the cell surface on a spiral track. Following viscous shear, cells can be tethered by the addition of an anti-SprB antibody, causing spinning at 3 Hz. Labeling the type 9 secretion system (T9SS) with a YFP fusion of GldL showed a yellow fluorescent spot near the rotation axis, indicating that the motor driving the motion is associated with the T9SS. The distance between the rotation axis and the track (90 nm) was determined after adding a Cy3 label for SprB. A rotary motor spinning a pinion of radius 90 nm at 3 Hz would cause a spot on its periphery to move at 1.5 μm/s, the gliding speed. We suggest the pinion drives a flexible tread that carries SprB along a track fixed to the cell surface. Cells glide when this adhesin adheres to the solid substratum.

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