Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso


  • Ricardo Amils
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_1028-2



Motility refers to the ability of organisms to move actively, consuming energy in the process. There are structural and functional differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic motilities.


Prokaryotic motility. Many prokaryotes are motile due to the presence of a special structure, the flagellum; certain prokaryotic cells can move along solid substances by gliding, and planktonic microorganisms can also regulate their position in a water column using gas vesicles. Prokaryotic flagella are long, thin helical appendages attached to the cell at one end. Flagella can have a polar (attached to one or both cellular ends) or a peritrichous (inserted around the cell) position. The filaments of prokaryotic flagella are composed of subunits of a protein called flagellin. In Bacteria, flagellin is highly conserved, suggesting that motility has deep evolutionary roots. However, in Archaea, several different flagellins have been described, and the...


Actin ATPase Axoneme Cilia Gliding Flagella Flagellin Flagellum Microfilaments Microtubules Tubulin 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Asai DJ, Koonce MP (2001) The dynein heavy chain: structure, mechanics and evolution. Trends Cell Biol 11:196–202. doi:10.1016/S0962-8924(01)01970-5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bardy SL, Ng SY, Jarrell KF (2003) Prokaryotic motility structures. Microbiology 149:295–304. doi:10.1099/mic.0.25948-0CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Calladine CR (2010) New twists for bacterial flagella. Nat Struct Mol Biol 17:395–396. doi:10.1038/nsmb0410-395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Desai A, Mitchison TJ (1997) Microtubule polymerization dynamics. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol 13:83–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Haimo LT, Rosenbaum JL (1981) Cilia, flagella, and microtubules. J Cell Biol 91:125–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Harshey RM (2003) Bacterial motility on a surface: many ways to a common goal. Annu Rev Microbiol 57:249–273. doi:10.1146/annurev.micro.57.030502.091014CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Biologia MolecularUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain