Flagellar motility of the pathogenic spirochetes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Bacterial pathogens are often classified by their toxicity and invasiveness. The invasiveness of a given bacterium is determined by how capable the bacterium is at invading a broad range of tissues in its host. Of mammalian pathogens, some of the most invasive come from a group of bacteria known as the spirochetes, which cause diseases, such as syphilis, Lyme disease, relapsing fever and leptospirosis. Most of the spirochetes are characterized by their distinct shapes and unique motility. They are long, thin bacteria that can be shaped like flat-waves, helices, or have more irregular morphologies. Like many other bacteria, the spirochetes use long, helical appendages known as flagella to move; however, the spirochetes enclose their flagella in the periplasm, the narrow space between the inner and outer membranes. Rotation of the flagella in the periplasm causes the entire cell body to rotate and/or undulate. These deformations of the bacterium produce the force that drives the motility of these organisms, and it is this unique motility that likely allows these bacteria to be highly invasive in mammals. This review will describe the current state of knowledge on the motility and biophysics of these organisms and provide evidence on how this knowledge can inform our understanding of spirochetal diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-112
Number of pages9
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Bacterial motility
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Spirochetes
  • Syphilis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Flagellar motility of the pathogenic spirochetes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this