The flagellar motor of Caulobacter crescentus generates more torque when a cell swims backwards

Pushkar P. Lele, Thibault Roland, Abhishek Shrivastava, Yihao Chen, Howard C. Berg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The bacterium Caulobacter crescentus swims by rotating a single right-handed helical filament. These cells have two swimming modes: a pusher mode, in which clockwise (CW) rotation of the filament thrusts the cell body forwards, and a puller mode, in which counterclockwise (CCW) rotation pulls it backwards. The situation is reversed in Escherichia coli, a bacterium that rotates several left-handed filaments CCW to drive the cell body forwards. The flagellar motor in E. coli generates more torque in the CCW direction than the CW direction in swimming cells. However, C. crescentus and other bacteria with single filaments swim forwards and backwards at similar speeds, prompting the assumption that motor torques in the two modes are the same. Here, we present evidence that motors in C. crescentus develop higher torques in the puller mode than in the pusher mode, and suggest that the anisotropy in torque generation is similar in the two species, despite the differences in filament handedness and motor bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-178
Number of pages4
JournalNature Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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