Mechanical Properties of the Bacteria Outer Membrane

Gabriel Billings

Bacteria are extraordinarily important to many aspects of our existence, and are both extremely useful, and extremely dangerous, to humans. Many bacteria, both beneficial and harmful, have two cellular membranes: an inner membrane which contains most vital cellular processes, and an outer membrane that serves as a protective barrier from the outside world. The outer membrane is responsible for many forms of antibiotic resistance, is an important trigger for our immune system, and is also a key feature of bacterial physiology Despite the outer membrane’s significance, its mechanical properties have never been elucidated. I will travel to Paris to visit the lab of Professor Atef Asnacios at Paris Diderot University in order to carry out experiments to explore these mechanical properties. Our aim is to use a powerful technique developed by Prof. Asnacios for measuring cell stiffness and apply it to bacterial cells: we will measure the rigidity of the outer membrane, and attempt to understand how various cellular components contribute to the membrane’s stiffness.


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