1. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
  2. Physics of Living Systems
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Mechanism of bidirectional thermotaxis in Escherichia coli

  1. Anja Paulick
  2. Vladimir Jakovljevic
  3. SiMing Zhang
  4. Michael Erickstad
  5. Alex Groisman
  6. Yigal Meir
  7. William S Ryu
  8. Ned S Wingreen
  9. Victor Sourjik  Is a corresponding author
  1. Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology and LOEWE Research Center for Synthetic Microbiology, Germany
  2. Zentrum für Molekulare Biologie der Universität Heidelberg, Germany
  3. University of Toronto, Canada
  4. University of California, San Diego, United States
  5. Ben Gurion University, Israel
  6. Princeton University, United States
  7. Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Germany
Research Article
  • Cited 8
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Cite as: eLife 2017;6:e26607 doi: 10.7554/eLife.26607

Abstract

In bacteria various tactic responses are mediated by the same cellular pathway, but sensing of physical stimuli remains poorly understood. Here, we combine an in-vivo analysis of the pathway activity with a microfluidic taxis assay and mathematical modeling to investigate the thermotactic response of Escherichia coli. We show that in the absence of chemical attractants E. coli exhibits a steady thermophilic response, the magnitude of which decreases at higher temperatures. Adaptation of wild-type cells to high levels of chemoattractants sensed by only one of the major chemoreceptors leads to inversion of the thermotactic response at intermediate temperatures and bidirectional cell accumulation in a thermal gradient. A mathematical model can explain this behavior based on the saturation-dependent kinetics of adaptive receptor methylation. Lastly, we find that the preferred accumulation temperature corresponds to optimal growth in the presence of the chemoattractant serine, pointing to a physiological relevance of the observed thermotactic behavior.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Anja Paulick

    Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology and LOEWE Research Center for Synthetic Microbiology, Marburg, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon 0000-0001-7103-6287
  2. Vladimir Jakovljevic

    DKFZ-ZMBH Alliance, Zentrum für Molekulare Biologie der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. SiMing Zhang

    Department of Physics and Donelly Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Michael Erickstad

    Department of Physics, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Alex Groisman

    Department of Physics, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Yigal Meir

    Department of Physics, Ben Gurion University, Beersheba, Israel
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. William S Ryu

    Department of Physics and Donnelly Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon 0000-0002-0350-7507
  8. Ned S Wingreen

    Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon 0000-0001-7384-2821
  9. Victor Sourjik

    Department of Systems and Synthetic Microbiology, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, Germany
    For correspondence
    victor.sourjik@synmikro.mpi-marburg.mpg.de
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon 0000-0003-1053-9192

Funding

National Institutes of Health (R01 GM082938)

  • Vladimir Jakovljevic
  • Yigal Meir
  • William S Ryu
  • Ned S Wingreen
  • Victor Sourjik

H2020 European Research Council (294761-MicRobE)

  • Vladimir Jakovljevic
  • Victor Sourjik

Max-Planck-Institut für Terrestrische Mikrobiologie (Open-access funding)

  • Victor Sourjik

National Science Foundation (PHY-1411313)

  • Alex Groisman

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Tâm Mignot, Aix Marseille University-CNRS UMR7283, France

Publication history

  1. Received: March 8, 2017
  2. Accepted: August 1, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: August 3, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: August 31, 2017 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2017, Paulick et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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