Techniques to Measure Pilus Retraction Forces

  • Nicolas BiaisEmail author
  • Dustin Higashi
  • Magdalene So
  • Benoit Ladoux
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 799)


The importance of physical forces in biology is becoming more appreciated. Neisseria gonorrhoeaehas become a paradigm for the study of physical forces in the bacterial world. Cycles of elongations and retractions of Type IV pili enables N. gonorrhoeaebacteria to exert forces on its environment, forces that play major roles in the life cycle of this pathogen. In order to better understand the role of these forces, there is a need to fully characterize them. Here, we present two different techniques, optical tweezers and Polyacrylamide MicroPillars (PoMPs), for measuring pilus retraction forces. Initially designed for N. gonorrhoeae, these assays can be readily modified to study other pilus-bearing bacteria including Neisseria meningitidis.

Key words

Neisseria Type IV pilus Retraction force Optical tweezer PoMPs 



N. B. and M. S. acknowledge the award of NIH grant AI079030. This work was also supported by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) (Programme Blanc 2010 SVSE5 “MECANOCAD”) and the CNRS (Program Prise de Risques “Interface physique, biologie et chimie”).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolas Biais
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dustin Higashi
    • 2
  • Magdalene So
    • 2
  • Benoit Ladoux
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Immunobiology and the BIO5 InstituteUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Matières et Systèmes ComplexesCNRS UNR7057/Université Paris 7ParisFrance

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