Myxococcus xanthus is a common Gram-negative bacterium that moves by a process called gliding motility. In myxobacteria, two distinct mechanisms for gliding have been discovered. S-type motility requires the extension, attachment, and retraction of type IV pili. The other mechanism, designated as A-type motility, may be driven by the secretion and swelling of slime; however, experiments to confirm or refute this model are still lacking and the force exerted by this mechanism has not been measured. A previously published experiment found that when an M. xanthus cell became stuck at one end, the cell underwent flailing motions. Based on this experiment, I propose an elastic model that can estimate the force produced by the A-motility engine and the bending modulus of a single myxobacterial cell. The model estimates a bending modulus of 3 × 10-14 erg cm and a force between 50-150 pN. This force is comparable to that predicted by slime extrusion, and the bending modulus is 30-fold smaller than that measured in Bacillus subtilis. This model suggests experiments that can further quantify this process.
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