Document Type



Medicine and Health Sciences


The Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, swims by undulating its cell body in the form of a traveling flat-wave, a process driven by rotating internal flagella. We study B. burgdorferi ’s swimming by treating the cell body and flagella as linearly elastic filaments. The dynamics of the cell are then determined from the balance between elastic and resistive forces and moments. We find that planar, traveling waves only exist when the flagella are effectively anchored at both ends of the bacterium and that these traveling flat-waves rotate as they undulate. The model predicts how the undulation frequency is related to the torque from the flagellar motors and how the stiffness of the cell body and flagella affect the undulations and morphology.


Phys Rev Lett. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 August 30. Published in final edited form as: Phys Rev Lett. 2012 November 21; 109(21): 218104. Published online 2012 November 21. PMCID: PMC3757510 NIHMSID: NIHMS502628