Bacteria go for a spin

12:28pm, February 20, 2007

Researchers may have found the mechanism powering a mysterious gliding motion in bacteria.

Bacterial locomotion often relies on appendages. Filamentous structures called flagella propel some microbes, while others glide using pili, extensions that a microbe shoots out from its leading end and then retracts to pull itself forward.

But another form of gliding, first described nearly 3 decades ago, doesn't involve appendages. To search for the motor, David R. Zusman of the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues fused a fluorescent protein to a microbial protein known to be necessary for this type of gliding in the rod-shaped bacterium Myxococcus xanthus.

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