Bend or Twist What Plectonemes Reveal about the Mysterious Motility of Spiroplasma

Paul M. Ryan, Joshua W. Shaevitz, Charles W. Wolgemuth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Spiroplasma is a unique, helical bacterium that lacks a cell wall and swims using propagating helix hand inversions. These deformations are likely driven by a set of cytoskeletal filaments, but how remains perplexing. Here, we probe the underlying mechanism using a model where either twist or bend drive spiroplasma's chirality inversions. We show that Spiroplasma should wrap into plectonemes at different values of the length and external viscosity, depending on the mechanism. Then, by experimentally measuring the bending modulus of Spiroplasma and if and when plectonemes form, we show that Spiroplasma's helix hand inversions are likely driven by bending.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number178401
JournalPhysical review letters
Volume131
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 27 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy

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