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J Bacteriol. 2008 Apr;190(8):2700-8. Epub 2007 Dec 7.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa exhibits sliding motility in the absence of type IV pili and flagella.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine (Clinical Microbiology), Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa exhibits swarming motility on 0.5 to 1% agar plates in the presence of specific carbon and nitrogen sources. We have found that PAO1 double mutants expressing neither flagella nor type IV pili (fliC pilA) display sliding motility under the same conditions. Sliding motility was inhibited when type IV pilus expression was restored; like swarming motility, it also decreased in the absence of rhamnolipid surfactant production. Transposon insertions in gacA and gacS increased sliding motility and restored tendril formation to spreading colonies, while transposon insertions in retS abolished motility. These changes in motility were not accompanied by detectable changes in rhamnolipid surfactant production or by the appearance of bacterial surface structures that might power sliding motility. We propose that P. aeruginosa requires flagella during swarming to overcome adhesive interactions mediated by type IV pili. The apparent dependence of sliding motility on environmental cues and regulatory pathways that also affect swarming motility suggests that both forms of motility are influenced by similar cohesive factors that restrict translocation, as well as by dispersive factors that facilitate spreading. Studies of sliding motility may be particularly well-suited for identifying factors other than pili and flagella that affect community behaviors of P. aeruginosa.

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