During Chemotaxis in bacteria with flagella, the flagellar rotation dictates how the cell moves. If the flagella rotate counterclockwise, then they form a bundle at one end of the cell (---O) and propel it forward in a coordinated fashion. However, if the flagella rotate clockwise, then each flagella acts independently to push the cell in many different directions.

My question is, why doesn't clockwise flagellar rotation simply cause the bundle to form on the opposite end of the cell? (O---)


In principle this can happen, but you have to read up on flagellar dynamics and polymorphic transitions (Real-Time Imaging of Fluorescent Flagellar Filaments, Turner et al. 2000).

From Howard Bergs lab page:

Runs can occur with filaments of any polymorphic form; although, the normal form predominates. For a cell to tumble, not every filament needs to change its direction of rotation. Different filaments can change directions at different times, or a tumble can result from the change in direction of only one.

If the whole bundle comes apart it can reform on either end of the cell body because E. coli has a random flagellation pattern (peritrichous) and thus no preferred direction of propagation of the cell body.

Also have look here for some nice movies from the Berg lab.


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