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Mol Microbiol. 2016 Jul;101(2):186-93. doi: 10.1111/mmi.13389. Epub 2016 May 7.

Novel mechanisms power bacterial gliding motility.

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Department of Biology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, 77843, USA.
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720, USA.


For many bacteria, motility is essential for survival, growth, virulence, biofilm formation and intra/interspecies interactions. Since natural environments differ, bacteria have evolved remarkable motility systems to adapt, including swimming in aqueous media, and swarming, twitching and gliding on solid and semi-solid surfaces. Although tremendous advances have been achieved in understanding swimming and swarming motilities powered by flagella, and twitching motility powered by Type IV pili, little is known about gliding motility. Bacterial gliders are a heterogeneous group containing diverse bacteria that utilize surface motilities that do not depend on traditional flagella or pili, but are powered by mechanisms that are less well understood. Recently, advances in our understanding of the molecular machineries for several gliding bacteria revealed the roles of modified ion channels, secretion systems and unique machinery for surface movements. These novel mechanisms provide rich source materials for studying the function and evolution of complex microbial nanomachines. In this review, we summarize recent findings made on the gliding mechanisms of the myxobacteria, flavobacteria and mycoplasmas.

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