Research ArticleMicrobiology

Direct Imaging of Intracellular Signaling Components That Regulate Bacterial Chemotaxis

Sci. Signal.  01 Apr 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 319, pp. ra32
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004963

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Seeing the Switching Mechanism

Bacteria can be attracted to or repelled by external chemical cues, a process called chemotaxis. These cues induce the phosphorylation or dephosphorylation of a protein called CheY. Phosphorylated CheY binds to basal bodies in the flagella, a helical structure that directs the movement of the bacterial cells, and switches the rotational direction of the flagella from counterclockwise to clockwise. Fukuoka et al. simultaneously imaged a fluorescent form of CheY and the rotational switching of the flagellar motor in live bacterial cells. They determined the number of phosphorylated CheY molecules that were required to trigger clockwise rotation of the motor and the timing of the binding and disassociation of phosphorylated CheY to the motor. These results provide a detailed molecular view of the mechanics of bacterial chemotaxis.