Motility response of Rhodobacter sphaeroides to chemotactic stimulation.
Poole PS., Armitage JP.
Tethered rotating cells of Rhodobacter sphaeroides varied widely in their stopping frequency; 45% of cells showed no stops of longer than 1 s, whereas others showed stops of up to several seconds. Individual cells alternated between stops and rotation at a fairly constant rate, without continuous variation. Addition of the chemoattractant propionate to free-swimming cells of R. sphaeroides increased the mean population swimming speed from 15 to 23 microns s-1. After correction for nonmotile cells, the percentage swimming at less than 5 microns s-1 dropped from approximately 22 to 8, whereas the percentage swimming at greater than 50 microns s-1 increased from 6 to 15. However, cells already swimming did not swim faster after propionate addition; the increase in the mean population speed after propionate addition was caused by an increase in the mean run length between stops from 25 to 101 microns. The increased run length was the result of a drop in both the stopping frequency and the length of a stop. Addition of propionate over the range of 10 microM to 1 mM decreased the stopping frequency; this decrease was almost entirely blocked by benzoate, a competitive inhibitor of propionate transport. The chemoattractants acetate and potassium had the same effect as propionate on the distribution of stopping frequency, which demonstrated that this is a general behavioral response to chemotactic stimulation. Adaptation to propionate stimulation was slow and very variable, cultures frequently showing little adaptation over 30 min. This characteristic may be the result of the lack of a highly specific chemosensory system in R. sphaeroides.