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Faster than a Speeding Bolt: Mycoplasma Walk This Way

Many prokaryotes move actively in liquid (swim) or on moist solid surfaces (swarm and glide) toward or away from a stimulus, such as a nutrient, light, or oxygen. Not surprisingly, prokaryotes have evolved numerous means of locomotion built around distinct molecular mechanisms.

How distinct? A human running, a dog walking, an eagle flying, a fish swimming, a frog hopping, and a starfish crawling are each unique, but all share a root mechanism in the molecular properties of actin and myosin in muscle cells. For prokaryotes however, their movements don’t just look different; they often evolved from disparate molecular systems or organelles unique to a particular genus or even species . Some of the more-studied mechanisms of prokaryotic motility are flagellar-based swimming and swarming, type-IV pilus twitching motility, and the ‘adventurous’ motility of Myxococcus xanthus. This adventurous motility relies on both secreted polysaccharide and a helical motor that produces tread-like protrusions along the cell surface.

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