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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 Feb;76(4):1241-50. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02153-09. Epub 2009 Dec 18.

Studying the dynamics of flagella in multicellular communities of Escherichia coli by using biarsenical dyes.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 433 Babcock Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


This paper describes a new approach for labeling intact flagella using the biarsenical dyes FlAsH and ReAsH and imaging their spatial and temporal dynamics on live Escherichia coli cells in swarming communities of bacteria by using epifluorescence microscopy. Using this approach, we observed that (i) bundles of flagella on swarmer cells remain cohesive during frequent collisions with neighboring cells, (ii) flagella on nonmotile swarmer cells at the leading edge of the colony protrude in the direction of the uncolonized agar surface and are actively rotated in a thin layer of fluid that extends outward from the colony, and (iii) flagella form transient interactions with the flagella of other swarmer cells that are in close proximity. This approach opens a window for observing the dynamics of cells in communities that are relevant to ecology, industry, and biomedicine.

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