Formation of a bacterial biofilm is a developmental process that begins when a cell attaches to a surface, but how does a bacterial cell know it is on or near a surface in the first place? The phase of this 'swim-or-stick' switch is determined by a sensory transduction mechanism referred to as surface sensing, which involves the rotating bacterial flagellum. This review explores six bacterial species as models of flagellar mechanosensing of surfaces to understand the current state of our knowledge and the challenges that lie ahead. A common link between these bacteria is a requirement for the proper function of the flagellar motor stators that channel ions into the cell to drive flagellar rotation. Conditions that affect ion flow act as a signal that, ultimately, controls the master transcriptional regulatory circuits controlling the flagellar hierarchy and biofilm formation.
Keywords: FliL; MotAB; flagella; mechanosensing; membrane potential; proton motive force.
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