Bending Instability of Rod-shaped Bacteria


A thin-walled tube, e.g., a drinking straw, manifests an instability when bent by localizing the curvature change in a small region. This instability has been extensively studied since the seminal work of Brazier nearly a century ago. However, the scenario of pressurized tubes has received much less attention. Motivated by rod-shaped bacteria such as E. coli, whose cell walls are much thinner than their radius and are subject to a substantial internal pressure, we study, theoretically, how this instability is affected by this internal pressure. In the parameter range relevant to the bacteria, we find that the internal pressure significantly postpones the onset of the instability, while the bending stiffness of the cell wall has almost no influence. This study suggests a new method to infer turgor pressure in rod-shaped bacteria from bending experiments.


Last updated on 08/09/2021