Live from under the lens: exploring microbial motility with dynamic imaging and microfluidics

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2015 Dec;13(12):761-75. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3567.


Motility is one of the most dynamic features of the microbial world. The ability to swim or crawl frequently governs how microorganisms interact with their physical and chemical environments, and underpins a myriad of microbial processes. The ability to resolve temporal dynamics through time-lapse video microscopy and the precise control of the physicochemical microenvironment afforded by microfluidics offer powerful new opportunities to study the many motility adaptations of microorganisms and thereby further our understanding of their ecology. In this Review, we outline recent insights into the motility strategies of microorganisms brought about by these techniques, including the hydrodynamic signature of microorganisms, their locomotion mechanics, chemotaxis, their motility near and on surfaces, swimming in moving fluids and motility in dense microbial suspensions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Locomotion*
  • Microbiological Techniques / methods
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Time-Lapse Imaging / methods*