Haloarchaea swim slowly for optimal chemotactic efficiency in low nutrient environments

Katie L. Thornton, Jaimi K. Butler, Seth J. Davis, Bonnie K. Baxter, Laurence G. Wilson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaea have evolved to survive in some of the most extreme environments on earth. Life in extreme, nutrient-poor conditions gives the opportunity to probe fundamental energy limitations on movement and response to stimuli, two essential markers of living systems. Here we use three-dimensional holographic microscopy and computer simulations to reveal that halophilic archaea achieve chemotaxis with power requirements one hundred-fold lower than common eubacterial model systems. Their swimming direction is stabilised by their flagella (archaella), enhancing directional persistence in a manner similar to that displayed by eubacteria, albeit with a different motility apparatus. Our experiments and simulations reveal that the cells are capable of slow but deterministic chemotaxis up a chemical gradient, in a biased random walk at the thermodynamic limit.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4453
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2020

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