R Shahapure, RPC Driessen, MF Haurat, S-V Albers, RT Dame
Microbes have evolved sophisticated mechanisms of motility allowing them to respond to changing environmental conditions. While this cellular process is well characterized in bacteria, the mode and mechanisms of motility are poorly understood in archaea. This study examines the motility of individual cells of the thermoacidophilic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. Specifically, we investigated motility of cells producing exclusively the archaeal swimming organelle, the archaellum. Archaella are structurally and in sequence similar to bacterial type IV pili involved in surface motility via pilus extension-retraction cycles and not to rotating bacterial flagella. Unexpectedly, our studies reveal a novel type of behaviour for type IV pilus like structures: archaella rotate and their rotation drives swimming motility. Moreover, we demonstrate that temperature has a direct effect on rotation velocity explaining temperature-dependent swimming velocity.