Unique centipede mechanism of Mycoplasma gliding

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2010;64:519-37. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.112408.134116.


Mycoplasma, a genus of pathogenic bacteria, forms a membrane protrusion at a cell pole. It binds to solid surfaces with this protrusion and then glides. The mechanism is not related to known bacterial motility systems, such as flagella or pili, or to conventional motor proteins, including myosin. We have studied the fastest species, Mycoplasma mobile, and have proposed a working model as follows. The gliding machinery is composed of four huge proteins at the base of the membrane protrusion and supported by a cytoskeletal architecture from the cell inside. Many flexible legs approximately 50 nm long are sticking out from the machinery. The movements generated by the ATP hydrolysis cell inside are transmitted to the "leg" protein through a "gear" protein, resulting in repeated binding, pull, and release of the sialylgalactose fixed on the surface by the legs. The gliding of Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a species distantly related to M. mobile, is also discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Locomotion*
  • Macromolecular Substances / chemistry
  • Macromolecular Substances / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mycoplasma / physiology*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate