Mechanosensitive remodeling of the bacterial flagellar motor is independent of direction of rotation

Wadhwa N, Tu Y, Berg HC, Proc Natl Acad Sci 118 (15) :e2024608118 (2021).


Motility is important for the survival and dispersal of many bacteria, and it often plays a role during infections. Regulation of bacterial motility by chemical stimuli is well studied, but recent work has added a new dimension to the problem of motility control. The bidirectional flagellar motor of the bacterium Escherichia coli recruits or releases torque-generating units (stator units) in response to changes in load. Here, we show that this mechanosensitive remodeling of the flagellar motor is independent of direction of rotation. Remodeling rate constants in clockwise rotating motors and in counterclockwise rotating motors, measured previously, fall on the same curve if plotted against torque. Increased torque decreases the off rate of stator units from the motor, thereby increasing the number of active stator units at steady state. A simple mathematical model based on observed dynamics provides quantitative insight into the underlying molecular interactions. The torque-dependent remodeling mechanism represents a robust strategy to quickly regulate output (torque) in response to changes in demand (load).