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Limiting (zero-load) speed of the rotary motor of &ITEscherichia coli&IT is independent of the number of torque-generating units
PNAS 114(47):12478-12482 Nov 2017

Wang, Bin; Zhang, Rongjing; Yuan, Junhua

Rotation of the bacterial flagellar motor is driven by multiple torque-generating units (stator elements). The torque-generating dynamics can be understood in terms of the “duty ratio” of the stator elements, that is, the fraction of time a stator element engages with the rotor during its mechanochemical cycle. The dependence of the limiting speed (zero-load speed) of the motor on the number of stator elements is the determining test of the duty ratio, which has been controversial experimentally and theoretically over the past decade. Here, we developed a method combining laser dark-field microscopy and optical trapping to resolve this controversy. We found that the zero-load speed is independent of the number of stator elements for the bacterial flagellar motor in Escherichia coli, demonstrating that these elements have a duty ratio close to 1.

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