Escherichia coli as a model active colloid: A practical introduction

Jana Schwarz-Linek, Jochen Arlt, Alys Jepson, Angela Dawson, Teun Vissers, Dario Miroli, Teuta Pilizota, Vincent A. Martinez*, Wilson C K Poon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The flagellated bacterium Escherichia coli is increasingly used experimentally as a self-propelled swimmer. To obtain meaningful, quantitative results that are comparable between different laboratories, reproducible protocols are needed to control, 'tune' and monitor the swimming behaviour of these motile cells. We critically review the knowledge needed to do so, explain methods for characterising the colloidal and motile properties of E. coli cells, and propose a protocol for keeping them swimming at constant speed at finite bulk concentrations. In the process of establishing this protocol, we use motility as a high-throughput probe of aspects of cellular physiology via the coupling between swimming speed and the proton motive force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-16
Number of pages15
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Active colloids
  • Bioenergetics
  • Differential dynamic microscopy
  • Escherichia coli
  • Metabolism
  • Motility
  • Proton motive force


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