Why do P. aeruginosa ‘twitch’ when they crawl on a surface using their Type IV Pili?
Bacteria use various appendages to move across surfaces in order to form multicellular bacterial biofilms, which are communities of cells responsible for lethal persistent infections and failure of many biomedical devices. One textbook example of this is “twitching” motility, which is made possible by hairlike structures on their surface called type IV pili, or TFP. A research team from the Gerard Wong group at UCLA Bioengineering has found that bacteria not only can use TFP like batman’s grappling hooks to pull themselves along a surface, they can use TFP as a slingshot to propel themselves. Dr. Fan Jin, now a Professor at the University of Science & Technology of China (USTC), and Dr. Jacinta Conrad, now a Professor at the University of Houston, are the lead authors of this work, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Additional details are in the following press release.
Link to PDF file on website: Jin 2011 PNAS
Link to news coverage: UCLA