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Phys Rev Lett. 2002 Sep 9;89(11):118102. Epub 2002 Aug 23.

Periodic chirality transformations propagating on bacterial flagella.

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Theoretical Biology and Biophysics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545, USA.


When a helical bacterial flagellum, clamped at one end, is placed in an external flow, it has been observed that regions of the flagellum transform to the opposite chirality, and travel as pulses down the length of the filament, the process repeating periodically [H. Hotani, J. Mol. Biol. 156, 791 (1982)]]. We propose a theory for this phenomenon based on a treatment of the flagellum as an elastic object with multiple stable configurations. The simplest possible implementation of the model accurately reproduces key features seen in experiment.

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