Chiral self-propulsion of growing bacterial macrofibers on a solid surface

Neil H. Mendelson, Joelle E. Sarlls, Charles W. Wolgemuth, Raymond E. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Supercoiling motions that accompany the growth of bacterial macrofibers (multicellular filamentous structures formed in B. subtilis by cell division without separation) are responsible for rolling, pivoting, and walking of fibers on a surface. Fibers possess a fulcrum about which they pivot and step in a chiral manner; forces and torques associated with cell growth, when blocked by friction, result in self-propulsion. The elastic engine that drives macrofiber motions generates torques estimated as µdyn cm and femtowatts of power; optical trapping studies yield a first direct measurement of the Young’s modulus of the bacterial cell wall, the engine’s “working fluid,” of ca. 0.05 GPa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1627-1630
Number of pages4
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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