Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bacteria loop-the-loop


Research team with participation from the University of Göttingen analyses flagellar locomotion

The magnetotactic bacterium Magnetococcus marinus swims with the help of two bundles of flagella, which are thread-like structures. The bacterial cells also possess a sort of intracellular "compass needle", meaning that their movements can be controlled using a magnetic field.

Computer simulation by the Göttingen research team: a bacterium propelling itself along using flagella pointing forwards and behind.

Credit: Sarah Mohammadinejed, University of Göttingen

Dr Sarah Mohammadinejad and Professor Stefan Klumpp from Göttingen carried out the simulations.

Credit: Vitali Telezki, University of Göttingen

This means they can be used as a biological model for microrobots. An international team from the University of Göttingen, the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam and the CEA Cadarache (France) has now found out how these bacteria move and determined their swimming speed. The results have been published in the scientific journal eLife.

The researchers used a combination of new experimental methods and computer simulations: they tracked the movement of the "microswimmers" using three-dimensional microscopy and analysed them using very high-frequency dark-field imaging.

A team from the University of Göttingen supplemented the work with simulations to find out which mechanism is responsible for driving the observed swimming paths in the bacteria.

The results are astonishing: the two bundles of flagella, which are anchored close together on the cell body, point in opposite directions when swimming. This causes the bacterial cell to be pulled by one bundle and pushed by the other. This kind of propulsion has never been observed in any other microorganism.

The resulting swimming paths describe double or even triple loops. In a way, the bacterium loops the loop as it moves forward. The actual speed is even greater than you might think, as the spiralling motion increases the distance covered considerably. The real speed is in the range of 400 to 500 microns (millionths of a meter) per second. The bacteria, which are about 1 micrometer in size, thus move over 500 body lengths per second. In comparison, Olympic swimmers only manage one body length per second.

What is the purpose of this unusual swimming method? "We assume that this type of swimming is advantageous in an environment full of sediment and other obstacles that can be bypassed by performing loops", says Professor Stefan Klumpp from the Institute for Dynamics of Complex Systems at the University of Göttingen.

"This special feature could also be exploited in medical microrobotics to move around in patients' blood and, for example, quickly reach a tumour. In fact, these bacteria move into anaerobic environments by themselves. They could therefore bring chemotherapy drugs directly into the vicinity of a tumour, which is also an oxygen-deficient environment."


Original publication: K. Bente, S. Mohammadinejad, et al. High-speed motility originates from cooperatively pushing and pulling flagella bundles in bilophotrichous bacteria. eLife (2020).

Professor Stefan Klumpp
University of Göttingen
Faculty of Physics - Institute for the Dynamics of Complex Systems
Friedrich-Hund-Platz 1, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
Tel: +49 (0)551 39-26942

Media Contact

Melissa Sollich

Melissa Sollich | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht TU Bergakademie Freiberg researches virus inhibitors from the sea
27.03.2020 | Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg

nachricht The Venus flytrap effect: new study shows progress in immune proteins research
27.03.2020 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light

Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.

The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.

Im Focus: Stem Cells and Nerves Interact in Tissue Regeneration and Cancer Progression

Researchers at the University of Zurich show that different stem cell populations are innervated in distinct ways. Innervation may therefore be crucial for proper tissue regeneration. They also demonstrate that cancer stem cells likewise establish contacts with nerves. Targeting tumour innervation could thus lead to new cancer therapies.

Stem cells can generate a variety of specific tissues and are increasingly used for clinical applications such as the replacement of bone or cartilage....

Im Focus: Artificial solid fog material creates pleasant laser light

An international research team led by Kiel University develops an extremely porous material made of "white graphene" for new laser light applications

With a porosity of 99.99 %, it consists practically only of air, making it one of the lightest materials in the world: Aerobornitride is the name of the...

Im Focus: Cross-technology communication in the Internet of Things significantly simplified

Researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a framework by which wireless devices with different radio technologies will be able to communicate directly with each other.

Whether networked vehicles that warn of traffic jams in real time, household appliances that can be operated remotely, "wearables" that monitor physical...

Im Focus: Peppered with gold

Research team presents novel transmitter for terahertz waves

Terahertz waves are becoming ever more important in science and technology. They enable us to unravel the properties of future materials, test the quality of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

“4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020” takes place over the internet

26.03.2020 | Event News

Most significant international Learning Analytics conference will take place – fully online

23.03.2020 | Event News

MOC2020: Fraunhofer IOF organises international micro-optics conference in Jena

03.03.2020 | Event News

Latest News

3D printer sensors could make breath tests for diabetes possible

27.03.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

TU Bergakademie Freiberg researches virus inhibitors from the sea

27.03.2020 | Life Sciences

The Venus flytrap effect: new study shows progress in immune proteins research

27.03.2020 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>