Chemotactic adaptation kinetics of individual Escherichia coli cells

Taejin L. Min, Patrick J. Mears, Ido Golding, Yann Robert Chemla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Escherichia coli chemotaxis serves as a paradigm for the way living cells respond and adapt to changes in their environment. The chemotactic response has been characterized at the level of individual flagellar motors and in populations of swimming cells. However, it has not been previously possible to quantify accurately the adaptive response of a single, multiflagellated cell. Here, we use our recently developed optical trapping technique to characterize the swimming behavior of individual bacteria as they respond to sudden changes in the chemical environment. We follow the adaptation kinetics of E. coli to varying magnitudes of step-up and step-down changes in concentration of chemoattractant. We quantify two features of adaptation and how they vary with stimulus strength: abruptness (the degree to which return to prestimulus behavior occurs within a small number of run/tumble events) and overshoot (the degree of excessive response before the return to prestimulus behavior). We also characterize the asymmetry between step-up and step-down responses, observed at the single-cell level. Our findings provide clues to an improved understanding of chemotactic adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9869-9874
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 19 2012


  • Bacterial chemotaxis
  • Optical tweezers
  • Single cell studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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