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Trends in Microbiology

Intermicrobial Hitchhiking: How Nonmotile Microbes Leverage Communal Motility

A.R.Muok1,2, A.Briegel1,2

Institute for Biology, Leiden University, Sylviusweg 72, 2333, BE, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Motility allows many microbes to traverse their environment to find nutrient sources or escape unfavorable environments. However, some microbes are nonmotile and are restricted to their immediate conditions. Intriguingly, sporadic reports have demonstrated that many nonmotile microbes can utilize the motility machinery of other microbes in their vicinity. This form of transportation, called hitchhiking, has been observed with both prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes. Importantly, many hitchhiking microbes are pathogenic to humans or plants. Here, we discuss reports of intermicrobial hitchhiking to generate a comprehensive view of hitchhiking mechanisms and how such interactions may influence human and plant health. We hypothesize that microbial hitchhiking is ubiquitous in nature and may become the subject of an independent subfield of research in microbiology.

Keywords:microbial hitchhiking; cell motility; chemotaxis; microbial pathogens.

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