Singly Flagellated Pseudomonas aeruginosa Chemotaxes Efficiently by Unbiased Motor Regulation

Author :Qiuxian Caia, Zhaojun Lia, Qi Ouyanga, Chunxiong Luoa, Vernita D. Gordon
Editor :Frederick M. Ausubel, Massachusetts General Hospital
Publisher :mbio
Volume :7
Number :2
Pages :e00013-16
Year :2016
DOI: : 10.1128/mBio.00013-16

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Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen that has long been known to chemotax. More recently, it has been established that chemotaxis is an important factor in the ability of P. aeruginosa to make biofilms. Genes that allow P. aeruginosa to chemotax are homologous with genes in the paradigmatic model organism for chemotaxis, Escherichia coli. However, P. aeruginosa is singly flagellated and E. coli has multiple flagella. Therefore, the regulation of counterclockwise/clockwise flagellar motor bias that allows E. coli to efficiently chemotax by runs and tumbles would lead to inefficient chemotaxis by P. aeruginosa, as half of a randomly oriented population would respond to a chemoattractant gradient in the wrong sense. How P. aeruginosa regulates flagellar rotation to achieve chemotaxis is not known. Here, we analyze the swimming trajectories of single cells in microfluidic channels and the rotations of cells tethered by their flagella to the surface of a variable-environment flow cell. We show that P. aeruginosa chemotaxes by symmetrically increasing the durations of both counterclockwise and clockwise flagellar rotations when swimming up the chemoattractant gradient and symmetrically decreasing rotation durations when swimming down the chemoattractant gradient. Unlike the case for E. coli, the counterclockwise/clockwise bias stays constant for P. aeruginosa. We describe P. aeruginosa‘s chemotaxis using an analytical model for symmetric motor regulation. We use this model to do simulations that show that, given P. aeruginosa‘s physiological constraints on motility, its distinct, symmetric regulation of motor switching optimizes chemotaxis.