Complex spatial distribution and dynamics of an abundant Escherichia coli outer membrane protein, LamB

Mol Microbiol. 2004 Sep;53(6):1771-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04242.x.


Advanced techniques for observing protein localization in live bacteria show that the distributions are dynamic. For technical reasons, most such techniques have not been applied to outer membrane proteins in Gram-negative bacteria. We have developed two novel live-cell imaging techniques to observe the surface distribution of LamB, an abundant integral outer membrane protein in Escherichia coli responsible for maltose uptake and for attachment of bacteriophage lambda. Using fluorescently labelled bacteriophage lambda tails, we quantitatively described the spatial distribution and dynamic movement of LamB in the outer membrane. LamB accumulated in spiral patterns. The distribution depended on cell length and changed rapidly. The majority of the protein diffused along spirals extending across the cell body. Tracking single particles, we found that there are two populations of LamB--one shows very restricted diffusion and the other shows greater mobility. The presence of two populations recalls the partitioning of eukaryotic membrane proteins between 'mobile' and 'immobile' populations. In this study, we have demonstrated that LamB moves along the bacterial surface and that these movements are restricted by an underlying dynamic spiral pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacteriophage lambda / metabolism
  • Bacteriophage lambda / ultrastructure
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / ultrastructure
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gold Colloid / metabolism
  • Porins
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Gold Colloid
  • Porins
  • Receptors, Virus
  • maltoporins