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Author Notes:

For correspondence: ybrun@indiana.edu, Tel: (+1) 812 855 8860; Fax: (+1) 812 855 6705

Nicolas Biais and Ankur B. Dalia contributed equally to this work.

We thank members of the Brun laboratory, C. Fuqua, and D. Kearns for critical comments on the manuscript.

We thank members of the Dalia laboratory C. Hayes and T. Dalia for strain construction.

We thank the Robert P. Apkarian Integrated Electron Microscopy Core of Emory University for microscopy services and support.

The authors declare no competing interests.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by grants R01GM102841, R01GM51986, and R35GM122556 from the National Institutes of Health to YVB, by grant AI118863 from the National Institutes of Health to ABD, by National Science Foundation fellowship 1342962 to CKE, and by grant AI116566 from the National Institutes of Health to NB.

This work was supported in part by grants R01GM104540 and R01GM104540-03S1 from the National Institutes of Health, NSF grant 0923395, and grants from Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Georgia Research Alliance, the Center for AIDS Research at Emory University (P30 AI050409), James B. Pendleton Charitable Trust to E.R.W.


  • Science & Technology
  • Multidisciplinary Sciences
  • Science & Technology - Other Topics

Obstruction of pilus retraction stimulates bacterial surface sensing

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Journal Title:



Volume 358, Number 6362


, Pages 535-538

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


It is critical for bacteria to recognize surface contact and initiate physiological changes required for surface-associated lifestyles. Ubiquitous microbial appendages called pili are involved in sensing surfaces and facilitating downstream behaviors, but the mechanism by which pili mediate surface sensing has been unclear.We visualized Caulobacter crescentus pili undergoing dynamic cycles of extension and retraction. Within seconds of surface contact, these cycles ceased, which coincided with synthesis of the adhesive holdfast required for attachment. Physically blocking pili imposed resistance to pilus retraction, which was sufficient to stimulate holdfast synthesis without surface contact. Thus, to sense surfaces, bacteria use the resistance on retracting, surface-bound pili that occurs upon surface contact.

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