Pressure-induced shape-shifting of helical bacteria

César L Pastrana, Luyi Qiu, Shahaf Armon, Ulrich Gerland, Ariel Amir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many bacterial species are helical in shape, including the widespread pathogen H. pylori. Motivated by recent experiments on H. pylori showing that cell wall synthesis is not uniform [J. A. Taylor, et al., eLife, 2020, 9, e52482], we investigate the possible formation of helical cell shape induced by elastic heterogeneity. We show, experimentally and theoretically, that helical morphogenesis can be produced by pressurizing an elastic cylindrical vessel with helical reinforced lines. The properties of the pressurized helix are highly dependent on the initial helical angle of the reinforced region. We find that steep angles result in crooked helices with, surprisingly, a reduced end-to-end distance upon pressurization. This work helps explain the possible mechanisms for the generation of helical cell morphologies and may inspire the design of novel pressure-controlled helical actuators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2224-2230
Number of pages7
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number12
Early online date8 Feb 2023
StatePublished - 28 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


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