Swimming activity of flagella is a main factor of the motility of bacteria. Flagella expressed on the surface of bacterial species serve as a primary means of motility including swimming. We propose to use optical tweezers to analyze the swimming activity of bacteria. The sample bacteria in the work is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and it is a gram-negative bacterium and often causes leading to burn wound infections, urinary-tract infections, and pneumonia. The single polar flagellum of P. aeruginosa has been demonstrated to be important virulence and colonization factor of this opportunistic pathogen. We demonstrate a gene to regulate the bacterial swimming activity in P. aeruginosa PAO1 by biological method. However, the change of flagellar morphology was not observed by electron microscopy analysis, suggesting that the gene regulates the flagellar rotation that could not be detected by biological method. PFM exhibits a spatial resolution of a few nanometers to detect the relative position of the probe at an acquisition rate over 1 MHz. By binding a probe such as a bead or a quantum dot on the flagella, we expect the rotation of the probe due to the flagella could be detected. It is expected that the study of the swimming activity of P. aeruginosa provide potent method for the pathogenic role of the flagella in P. aeruginosa.
Adherence to host cells by a bacterial pathogen is a critical step for establishment of infection. It will contribute greatly to the understanding of bacterial pathogenesis by studying the biological force between a single pair of pathogen and host cell. In our experiment, we use a calibrated optical tweezers system to detach a single Klebsiella pneumoniae, the pathogen, from collagen, the host. By gradually increasing the laser power of the optical tweezers until the Klebsiella pneumoniae is detached from the collagen, we obtain the magnitude of the adhesive force between them. This happens when the adhesive force is barely equal to the trapping force provided by the optical tweezers at that specific laser power.
This study is important because Klebsiella pneumoniae is an opportunistic pathogen which causes suppurative lesions, urinary and respiratory tract infections. It has been proved that type 3 fimbrial adhesin (mrkD) is strongly associated with the adherence of Klebsiella pneumoniae. Besides, four polymorphic mrkD alleles: namely, mrkDv1, v2, v3, and v4, are typed by using RFLP.
In order to investigate the relationship between the structure and the function for each of these variants, DNA fragments encoding the major fimbrial proteins mrkA, mrkB, mrkC are expressed together with any of the four mrkD adhesins in E. coli JM109. Our study shows that the E. coli strain carrying the mrkDv3 fimbriae has the strongest binding activity. This suggests that mrkDv3 is a key factor that enhances the adherence of Klebsiella Pneumoniae to human body.