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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36081. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036081. Epub 2012 May 2.

On the mysterious propulsion of Synechococcus.

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Mathematics Department, Truckee Meadows Community College, Reno, Nevada, United States of America.


We propose a model for the self-propulsion of the marine bacterium Synechococcus utilizing a continuous looped helical track analogous to that found in Myxobacteria [1]. In our model cargo-carrying protein motors, driven by proton-motive force, move along a continuous looped helical track. The movement of the cargo creates surface distortions in the form of small amplitude traveling ridges along the S-layer above the helical track. The resulting fluid motion adjacent to the helical ribbon provides the propulsive thrust. A variation on the helical rotor model of [1] allows the motors to be anchored to the peptidoglycan layer, where they drive rotation of the track creating traveling helical waves along the S-layer. We derive expressions relating the swimming speed to the amplitude, wavelength, and velocity of the surface waves induced by the helical rotor, and show that they fall in reasonable ranges to explain the velocity and rotation rate of swimming Synechococcus.

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