A skeptic’s guide to bacterial mechanosensing
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Surface sensing in bacteria is a precursor to the colonization of biotic and abiotic surfaces, and an important cause of drug resistance and virulence. As a motile bacterium approaches and adheres to a surface from the bulk fluid, the mechanical forces that act on it change. Bacteria are able to sense these changes in the mechanical load through a process termed mechanosensing. Bacterial mechanosensing has featured prominently in recent literature as playing a key role in surface sensing. However, the changes in mechanical loads on different parts of the cell at a surface vary in magnitudes as well as in signs. This confounds the determination of a causal relationship between the activation of specific mechanosensors and surface sensing. Here, we explain how contrasting mechanical stimuli arise on a surface-adherent cell and how known mechanosensors respond to these stimuli. The evidence for mechanosensing in select bacterial species is reinterpreted, with a focus on mechanosensitive molecular motors. We conclude with proposed criteria that bacterial mechanosensors must satisfy to successfully mediate surface sensing.
author list (cited authors)
Chawla, R., Gupta, R., Lele, T. P., & Lele, P. P.