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Access to the article is free, however registration and sign-in are required. Many species of bacteria form biofilms, slimy carpets a fraction of a millimeter thick that appear on rocks, leaves, pipes, teeth--pretty much any place that has a supply of nutrients and water. Cells must first attach to a surface, which in many species requires swimming propelled by rotating helical flagella (1). Two things typically happen next. Cells stop expressing genes that encode components of the flagellum, and they secrete a sticky matrix of polysaccharides that holds them together on the surface (2). Once at a surface, swimming may be a hindrance rather than a help, and an inverse relationship between swimming and attachment has been seen in many diverse species (3). Bacterial motility is arrested when a protein that acts as a clutch disables rotation of the flagellar motor.
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