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Nature. 1989 Apr 6;338(6215):514-8.

Compliance of bacterial flagella measured with optical tweezers.

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Rowland Institute for Science, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142.


The development of the gradient force optical particle trap ('optical tweezers') has made it possible to manipulate biological materials using a single beam of laser light. Optical traps can produce forces in the microdyne range on intact cells without causing overt damage: such forces are sufficient to arrest actively swimming bacteria and can overcome torque generated by the flagellar motor of a bacterium tethered to a glass surface by a flagellar filament. By calibrating the trapping force against Stokes' drag and measuring the twist that is sustained by this force, we determined the torsional compliance of flagella in tethered Escherichia coli and a motile Streptococcus. Flagella behaved as linear torsion springs for roughly half a revolution, but became much more rigid when turned beyond this point in either direction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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