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Single-cell bacterial electrophysiology reveals mechanisms of stress-induced damage

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2390-2399
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number12
Early online date15 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2019


Electrochemical gradient of protons, or proton motive force (PMF), is at the basis of bacterial energetics. It powers vital cellular processes and defines the physiological state of the cell. Here we use an electric circuit analogy of an Escherichia coli cell to mathematically describe the relationship between bacterial PMF, electric properties of the cell membrane and catabolism. We combine the analogy with the use of bacterial flagellar motor as a single-cell ”voltmeter” to measure cellular PMF in varied and dynamic external environments, for example, under different stresses. We find that butanol acts as an ionophore, and functionally characterise membrane damage caused by the light of shorter wavelengths. Our approach coalesces non-invasive and fast single-cell voltmeter with a well-defined mathematical framework to enable quantitative bacterial electrophysiology.

    Research areas

  • bacterial energetics, proton motive force, bacterial membrane damage, single-cell measurements, bacterial physiology, indole, butanol, photodamage

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