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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Jun;60(6):1590-602.

A mechanical role for the chemotaxis system in swarming motility.

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Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology & Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


The chemotaxis system, but not chemotaxis, is essential for swarming motility in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Mutants in the chemotaxis pathway exhibit fewer and shorter flagella, downregulate class 3 or 'late' motility genes, and appear to be less hydrated when propagated on a surface. We show here that the output of the chemotaxis system, CheY approximately P, modulates motor bias during swarming as it does during chemotaxis, but for a distinctly different end. A constitutively active form of CheY was found to promote swarming in the absence of several upstream chemotaxis components. Two point mutations that suppressed the swarming defect of a cheY null mutation mapped to FliM, a protein in the motor switch complex with which CheY approximately P interacts. A common property of these suppressors was their increased frequency of motor reversal. These and other data suggest that the ability to switch motor direction is important for promoting optimal surface wetness. If the surface is sufficiently wet, exclusively clockwise or counterclockwise directions of motor rotation will support swarming, suggesting also that the bacteria can move on a surface with flagellar bundles of either handedness.

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