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2011 News in Brief



Stocker writes commentary on ‘flick of the flagellum’ method of microbial locomotion

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Professor Roman Stocker wrote an invited news commentary that accompanied an article in the Feb. 2 Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about a newly discovered mechanism of locomotion used by marine microbes. In his commentary, “Reverse and flick: Hybrid locomotion in bacteria,” Stocker writes: “Our understanding of bacterial locomotion has long been driven and biased by the wealth of knowledge on E.coli,” which has four to eight flagella, each “powered by a reversible rotary motor. When all motors spin counterclockwise, hydrodynamic interactions cause the flagella to form a bundle that propels E. coli forward in a nearly straight ‘run.’ When one or more motors switch direction, the bundle comes apart, causing a change in direction.” But many marine microbes have only a single flagellum, so how do they change direction? Xie et. al. describe a means for these cells to change direction by reversing, then using a flick of the flagellum to propel in a different direction.