Publication
Biophysical Journal
Paper

Precision sensing by two opposing gradient sensors: How does escherichia coli find its preferred pH level?

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Abstract

It is essential for bacteria to find optimal conditions for their growth and survival. The optimal levels of certain environmental factors (such as pH and temperature) often correspond to some intermediate points of the respective gradients. This requires the ability of bacteria to navigate from both directions toward the optimum location and is distinct from the conventional unidirectional chemotactic strategy. Remarkably, Escherichia coli cells can perform such a precision sensing task in pH taxis by using the same chemotaxis machinery, but with opposite pH responses from two different chemoreceptors (Tar and Tsr). To understand bacterial pH sensing, we developed an Ising-type model for a mixed cluster of opposing receptors based on the push-pull mechanism. Our model can quantitatively explain experimental observations in pH taxis for various mutants and wild-type cells. We show how the preferred pH level depends on the relative abundance of the competing sensors and how the sensory activity regulates the behavioral response. Our model allows us to make quantitative predictions on signal integration of pH and chemoattractant stimuli. Our study reveals two general conditions and a robust push-pull scheme for precision sensing, which should be applicable in other adaptive sensory systems with opposing gradient sensors. © 2013 Biophysical Society.

Date

02 Jul 2013

Publication

Biophysical Journal

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