Temperature-induced switching of the bacterial flagellar motor

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Chemotaxis signaling proteins normally control the direction of rotation of the flagellar motor of Escherichia coli. In their absence, a wild-type motor spins exclusively counterclockwise. Although the signaling pathway is well defined, relatively little is known about switching, the mechanism that enables the motor to change direction. We found that switching occurs in the absence of signaling proteins when cells are cooled to temperatures below about 10°C. The forward rate constant (for counterclockwise to clockwise, CCW to CW, switching) increases and the reverse rate constant (for CW to CCW switching) decreases as the temperature is lowered. At about 2°C, most motors spin exclusively CW. At temperatures for which reversals are frequent enough to generate a sizable data set, both CCW and CW interval distributions appear to be exponential. From the rate constants we computed equilibrium constants and standard free energy changes, and from the temperature dependence of the standard free energy changes we determined standard enthalpy and entropy changes. Using transition-state theory, we also calculated the activation free energy, enthalpy, and entropy. We conclude that the CW state is preferred at very low temperatures and that it is relatively more highly bonded and restricted than the CCW state.




Turner, L., Caplan, S. R., & Berg, H. C. (1996). Temperature-induced switching of the bacterial flagellar motor. Biophysical Journal, 71(4), 2227–2233. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(96)79425-0

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