The flagellar motor of Caulobacter crescentus generates more torque when a cell swims backward. Academic Article uri icon


  • Caulobacter crescentus, a monotrichous bacterium, swims by rotating a single right-handed helical filament. CW motor rotation thrusts the cell forward 1, a mode of motility known as the pusher mode; CCW motor rotation pulls the cell backward, a mode of motility referred to as the puller mode 2. The situation is opposite in E. coli, a peritrichous bacterium, where CCW rotation of multiple left-handed filaments drives the cell forward. The flagellar motor in E. coli generates more torque in the CCW direction than the CW direction in swimming cells 3,4. However, monotrichous bacteria including C. crescentus swim forward and backward at similar speeds, prompting the assumption that motor torques in the two modes are the same 5,6. 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 two species, despite the differences in filament handedness and motor bias (probability of CW rotation).

published proceedings

  • Nat Phys

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Lele, P. P., Roland, T., Shrivastava, A., Chen, Y., & Berg, H. C.

citation count

  • 30

complete list of authors

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

publication date

  • February 2016