A bacterial swimmer with two alternating speeds of propagation

Biophys J. 2013 Oct 15;105(8):1915-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.08.047.


We recorded large data sets of swimming trajectories of the soil bacterium Pseudomonas putida. Like other prokaryotic swimmers, P. putida exhibits a motion pattern dominated by persistent runs that are interrupted by turning events. An in-depth analysis of their swimming trajectories revealed that the majority of the turning events is characterized by an angle of ϕ1 = 180° (reversals). To a lesser extent, turning angles of ϕ2 = 0° are also found. Remarkably, we observed that, upon a reversal, the swimming speed changes by a factor of two on average-a prominent feature of the motion pattern that, to our knowledge, has not been reported before. A theoretical model, based on the experimental values for the average run time and the rotational diffusion, recovers the mean-square displacement of P. putida if the two distinct swimming speeds are taken into account. Compared to a swimmer that moves with a constant intermediate speed, the mean-square displacement is strongly enhanced. We furthermore observed a negative dip in the directional autocorrelation at intermediate times, a feature that is only recovered in an extended model, where the nonexponential shape of the run-time distribution is taken into account.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Models, Biological
  • Movement
  • Pseudomonas putida / physiology*
  • Time Factors