Dynamic Receptor Team Formation Can Explain the High Signal Transduction Gain in Escherichia coli

Réka Albert, Yu Wen Chiu, Hans G. Othmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Evolution has provided many organisms with sophisticated sensory systems that enable them to respond to signals in their environment. The response frequently involves alteration in the pattern of movement, either by directed movement, a process called taxis, or by altering the speed or frequency of turning, which is called kinesis. Chemokinesis has been most thoroughly studied in the peritrichous bacterium Escherichia coli, which has four helical flagella distributed over the cell surface, and swims by rotating them. When rotated counterclockwise the flagella coalesce into a propulsive bundle, producing a relatively straight "run," and when rotated clockwise they fly apart, resulting in a "tumble" which reorients the cell with little translocation. A stochastic process generates the runs and tumbles, and in a chemoeffector gradient, runs that carry the cell in a favorable direction are extended. The cell senses spatial gradients as temporal changes in receptor occupancy and changes the probability of counterclockwise rotation (the bias) on a fast timescale, but adaptation returns the bias to baseline on a slow timescale, enabling the cell to detect and respond to further concentration changes. The overall structure of the signal transduction pathways is well characterized in E. coli, but important details are still not understood. Only recently has a source of gain in the signal transduction network been identified experimentally, and here we present a mathematical model based on dynamic assembly of receptor teams that can explain this observation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2650-2659
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grant No. GM-29123 to H.G.O.


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