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Phys Rev Lett. 2010 Apr 30;104(17):178104. Epub 2010 Apr 28.

Multiple pilus motors cooperate for persistent bacterial movement in two dimensions.

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Institut für Molekulare Zellbiologie, Schlossplatz 5, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany.


In various bacterial species surface motility is mediated by cycles of type IV pilus motor elongation, adhesion, and retraction, but it is unclear whether bacterial movement follows a random walk. Here we show that the correlation time of persistent movement in Neisseria gonorrhoeae increases with the number of pili. The unbinding force of individual pili from the surface F=10 pN was considerably lower than the stalling force F>100 pN, suggesting that density, force, and adhesive properties of the pilus motor enable a tug-of-war mechanism for bacterial movement.

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