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Phys Rev Lett. 2005 Jun 24;94(24):248101. Epub 2005 Jun 21.

Continuum model for polymorphism of bacterial flagella.

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Division of Engineering, Box D, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.


Bacterial flagellar filaments can abruptly change shape in response to mechanical load or changes in solution pH or ionic strength. These polymorphic transformations are an instance of a ubiquitous phenomenon, the spread of conformational change in large macromolecular assemblies. We propose a new theory for polymorphism, whose essential elements are two molecular switches and an elastic mismatch strain between the inner and outer cores of the filament. We calculate the phase diagram for helical and straight states, and the response of a helical filament to an external moment.

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