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Bacterial chemotaxis represents one of the simplest and best studied examples of unicellular behavior. Chemotaxis allows swimming bacterial cells to follow chemical gradients in the environment by performing temporal comparisons of ligand concentrations. The process of chemotaxis in the model bacterium Escherichia coli has been studied in great molecular detail over the past 40 years, using a large range of experimental tools to investigate physiology, genetics and biochemistry of the system. The abundance of quantitative experimental data enabled detailed computational modeling of the pathway and theoretical analyses of such properties as robustness and signal amplification. Because of the temporal mode of gradient sensing in bacterial chemotaxis, molecular memory is an essential component of the chemotaxis pathway. Recent studies suggest that the memory time scale has been evolutionary optimized to perform optimal comparisons of stimuli while swimming in the gradient. Moreover, noise in the adaptation system, which results from variations of the adaptation rate both over time and among cells, might be beneficial for the overall chemotactic performance of the population.
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