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Rhodobacter sphaeroides, which lacks methyl accepting chemotaxis proteins, showed a strong response to gradients of either pyruvate or propionate. If cells were placed in a saturating background of pyruvate they no longer responded to a gradient of propionate but they still responded to potassium or ammonia. This demonstrates that pyruvate saturated the response to another carbon source, but not to other classes of compound. The total movement of cells in a pyruvate background was maintained at a high level relative to a buffer control, indicating an apparent lack of adaptation to saturating pyruvate. The response of R. sphaeroides to a saturating background of pyruvate was weak in cells grown on limiting ammonia although these cells showed a strong response to ammonia. These data suggest that cells show a strong response to the class of compound that currently limits motility. Two hypotheses to explain these results are presented. Firstly, cells show a chemotactic response to a gradient of the limiting compound until saturated by it, they then respond to a gradient of the new compound that has then become limiting. The chemotactic response is the result of a decrease in stopping frequency as cells move up a gradient and an increase as they move down. Secondly, the behavioural response may have two components, a short term chemotactic response and a long term excitation of motility. © 1990 Springer-Verlag.

Original publication




Journal article


Archives of Microbiology

Publication Date





368 - 372