Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Team Finds A Better Way To Watch Bacteria Swim

Researchers have developed a new method for studying bacterial swimming, one that allows them to trap Escherichia coli bacteria and modify the microbes’ environment without hindering the way they move.

The new approach, described this month in Nature Methods, uses optical traps, microfluidic chambers and fluorescence to get an improved picture of how E. coli get around.

The microfluidic chambers provide a controlled environment in which the bacteria swim, and allow the researchers to introduce specific stimuli – such as chemical attractants – to see if the microbes change direction in response to that stimulus.

Optical traps use lasers to confine individual cells without impeding their rotation or the movement of their flagella. University of Illinois physics professor Yann Chemla, who co-led the study with physics professor Ido Golding, calls the optical traps “bacterial treadmills.” Movement of the bacterial cell alters the light from the laser, allowing the researchers to track its behavior.

Fluorescent markers enhance visualization of the bacteria and their flagella under a microscope.

Three to six helical flagella emerge from various points along E. coli’s rod-shaped body.

When they rotate in a counterclockwise fashion (as seen from behind), they gather into what looks like a coordinated bundle that pushes the bacterium forward, causing it to corkscrew through its environment. But when one or more flagella rotate in the opposite direction, they splay apart, reorienting the bacterium.

This “run and tumble” behavior has long been of interest to scientists for two reasons, Golding said. First, the elaborate mechanics of bacterial swimming “tell you a lot about biomechanics,” he said. And second, “it serves as a paradigm for the way living cells process information from their environment.”

Earlier studies have been unable to follow individual bacterial cells moving in three dimensions for more than about 30 seconds, the researchers said. And it is nearly impossible to determine what cues are spurring a cell to move in a given direction. The new method addresses both of these problems without altering the normal behavior of the bacterium, they found.

“Because the cell is immobilized, what we do is change the environment around it,” Chemla said. “We can set up a flow cell that has two different concentrations of some chemical, for example, and see how the bacterium responds. Technically we’re moving the swimming pool relative to the swimmer,” he said.

The new approach allows the researchers to track a single bacterium as it swims for up to an hour, “which is orders of magnitude above what people could do before,” Golding said. This will offer a new look at questions that so far have been unanswerable, he said.

“For example, some people have asked whether E. coli has a nose. Does it have a front and back?” Golding said. The team’s observations indicate that while the bacterium can travel in either direction, most E. coli have “a pronounced preference” for one over the other, he said.

The researchers found that after most tumbles, a bacterium usually continued swimming in the same general direction, but that about one in six tumbles caused it to change direction completely. They were also able to quantify other features of bacterial swimming, such as changes in velocity and the time spent running and tumbling. The new technique will allow researchers to address many more questions about this model organism, they said.

“That’s the typical way biology moves forward,” Golding said. “You develop a new measurement capability and then you can use that to go back and look at fundamental questions that people had been looking at but had no way of answering.”

The study is a project of the National Science Foundation’s Center for the Physics of Living Cells at the University of Illinois, which promotes collaboration across disciplines, the researchers said.

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>