Rigid multibody simulation of a helix-like structure: the dynamics of bacterial adhesion pili
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We present a coarse-grained rigid multibody model of a subunit assembled helix-like polymer, e.g., adhesion pili expressed by bacteria, that is capable of describing the polymer’s force-extension response. With building blocks representing individual subunits, the model appropriately describes the complex behavior of pili expressed by the gram-negative uropathogenic Escherichia coli bacteria under the action of an external force. Numerical simulations show that the dynamics of the model, which include the effects of both unwinding and rewinding, are in good quantitative agreement with the characteristic force-extension response as observed experimentally for type 1 and P pili. By tuning the model, it is also possible to reproduce the force-extension response in the presence of anti-shaft antibodies, which dramatically changes the mechanical properties. Thus, the model and results in this work give enhanced understanding of how a pilus unwinds under the action of external forces and provide a new perspective of the complex bacterial adhesion processes.
KeywordsFimbriae Escherichia coli Optical tweezers Simulations Force spectroscopy
This work was performed within the Umeå Centre for Microbial Research (UCMR) Linnaeus Program supported by Umeå University and the Swedish Research Council (349-2007-8673) and supported by the Swedish Research Council (621-2013-5379) to M.A.
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