The proton flux through the bacterial flagellar motor

Cell. 1987 Jun 5;49(5):643-50. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(87)90540-x.


Bacterial flagella are driven by a rotary motor that utilizes the free energy stored in the electrochemical proton gradient across the cytoplasmic membrane to do mechanical work. The flux of protons coupled to motor rotation was measured in Streptococcus and found to be directly proportional to motor speed. This supports the hypothesis that the movement of protons through the motor is tightly coupled to the rotation of its flagellar filament. Under this assumption the efficiency of energy conversion is close to unity at the low speeds encountered in tethered cells but only a few percent at the high speeds encountered in swimming cells. This difference appears to be due to dissipation by processes internal to the motor. The efficiency at high speeds exhibits a steep temperature dependence and a sizable deuterium solvent isotope effect.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Flagella / metabolism*
  • Flagella / physiology
  • Locomotion
  • Protons*
  • Rotation
  • Streptococcus / physiology


  • Protons