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Continuous observations of bacterial gliding motility in a dialysis microchamber: The effects of inhibitors


Use of a dialysis microchamber has allowed continuous observations on the same set of gliding bacteria during changes in the composition of the perfused medium. This procedure has revealed the presence of an adaptive, cyanide-insensitive metabolic pathway, which allows cyanide-treated Flexibacter BH3 to begin gliding again at a reduced rate when glucose is the substrate. In addition, it has revealed that individual flexibacter cells can maintain their gliding motility for up to 20 h in the absence of exogenous substrate.

Gliding in Flexibacter BH3 was prevented by those inhibitors blocking the electron transport process. Inhibitors of glucose metabolism did not prevent motility, since the flexibacters obviously metabolize endogenous substrate under such circumstances. Proton ionophores, which induce membrane depolarization, rapidly inhibited gliding in Flexibacter BH3. This inhibition was irreversible in the case of gramicidin S. Gliding was not inhibited by cytochalasin B or antiactin antibody. High concentrations of Ca2+ were particularly inhibitory to the gliding process. The significance of these results is discussed in relation to a possible mechanism of gliding involving the generation of rhythmical contractions in the outer cell membrane of Flexibacter BH3.

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carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenyl hydrazone




gramicidin S


2-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline N-oxide




complete Lewin's medium


Lewin's basal salts


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Correspondence to K. C. Marshall.

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Duxbury, T., Humphrey, B.A. & Marshall, K.C. Continuous observations of bacterial gliding motility in a dialysis microchamber: The effects of inhibitors. Arch. Microbiol. 124, 169–175 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00427723

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Key words

  • Flexibacter sp.
  • Gliding motility
  • Dialysis microchamber
  • Inhibitors
  • Membrane potentials