Biologists Investigate Smallest Propeller on Earth – Used by One of the Fastest Organisms on the Planet

M. villous archaellum

Representation of the M. villous archaellum highlighting the two alternating subunits in blue and orange (foreground) and swimming M. villosus cells (background). Credit: University of Exeter

University of Exeter scientists have discovered new information about the tiny propellers used by single-cell organisms called archaea.

Like bacteria, archaea are found in a vast range of habitats – including inside human bodies – but unlike bacteria they are not known to cause disease.

Some archaea propel themselves to incredible speeds by rotating a spiral-shaped filament called an archaellum. Using a powerful cryo-electron microscope, the new study examined this closer than ever before.

The research team – which included the University of Regensburg – focussed on Methanocaldococcus villosus, a species found near underwater volcanoes off Iceland, where water temperatures can reach about 80°C (176°F).

M. villosus swims at a speed of about 500 body lengths per second,” said Dr. Lavinia Gambelli, of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute (LSI).

“Considering that the tiny cell is only about one micrometer in size, this means half a millimeter in one second.

“At first glance, this does not seem much. But in comparison, a cheetah achieves only 20 body lengths per second – so if an M. villosus cell had the size of a cheetah, it would swim at approximately 3,000 kilometers per hour (1,900 miles per hours).

“The incredible speed that M. villosus can achieve makes it one of the fastest organisms on the planet.”

Using the cryo-electron microscope, researchers can see objects whose width is as small as only a few hydrogen atoms.

“At this resolution, we can see the very fabric of life and study fundamental biological processes at atomic detail,” said Dr. Bertram Daum, also of the LSI.

“In this study, we were able to look closely at the smallest propeller in the world, to find out more about its shape and how it works.

“As well as teaching us more about these fascinating organisms, this could have implications for human health and technology.

“Archaea make up a considerable percentage of the microorganisms found in the human body. None has so far been found to cause disease, but it remains a possibility.

“In the future, it might even be possible to develop microscopic robotic devices for drug delivery based on the tiny propellers used by archaea.”

The study discovered that the filament used by M. villosus is made up of thousands of copies of two alternating proteins, whereas previously investigated filaments showed only one protein.

This suggests that the architecture and assembly of an archaellum is more complex than previously thought.

The researchers also identified two major structural elements that enable the archaellum filament to move, propelling the cell at high speed.

The study was funded by the European Research Council.

The paper, published in the journal Nature Communications, is entitled: “An archaellum filament composed of two alternating subunits.”

Reference: “An archaellum filament composed of two alternating subunits” by Lavinia Gambelli, Michail N. Isupov, Rebecca Conners, Mathew McLaren, Annett Bellack, Vicki Gold, Reinhard Rachel and Bertram Daum, 7 February 2022, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28337-1

4 Comments on "Biologists Investigate Smallest Propeller on Earth – Used by One of the Fastest Organisms on the Planet"

  1. Babu G. Ranganathan | February 13, 2022 at 7:36 am | Reply

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)


    JUST BECAUSE something exists in nature does not mean it was invented by nature. If all the chemicals (i.e. amino acids, nucleic acids, etc.) necessary to make a cell were left to themselves, “Mother Nature” would have no ability to organize them into a cell. It requires an already existing cell to bring about another cell. The cell exists and reproduces in nature but nature didn’t invent or design it! Nature didn’t originate the cell or any form of life. An intelligent power outside of nature had to be responsible.

    Miller, in his famous experiment in 1953, showed that amino acids (the building blocks of life) could form by chance. But, it’s not enough just to have amino acids. The various amino acids that make-up life must link together in a precise sequence, just like the letters in a sentence, to form functioning protein molecules. It has never been shown that various amino acids can bind together into a sequence by chance to form protein molecules.

    Natural laws may explain how an airplane or cell works, but it’s not rational to believe that undirected natural laws can bring about an airplane or a cell.

    ONCE YOU HAVE a complete and living cell then the genetic program (or code) and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could the cell have originated naturally when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature?

    Mathematicians have said any event in the universe with odds of 10 to 50th power or greater is impossible! The probability of just an average size protein molecule arising by chance is 10 to the 65th power. Even the simplest cell is made up of many millions of various protein molecules along with and DNA/RNA..

    The late great British scientist Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated that the odds of even the simplest cell coming into existence by chance is 10 to the 40,000th power! How large is this? Consider that the total number of atoms in our universe is 10 to the 82nd power.

    The cell didn’t evolve. A partially evolved cell would quickly disintegrate, not wait millions of years to become complete and living.

    WHAT ABOUT EVOLUTION? Only evolution within “kinds” is genetically possible (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.), but not evolution across “kinds” (i.e. from sea sponge to human). How could species have survived if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems were still evolving? Survival of the fittest would actually have prevented such evolution! Only limited evolution, variations of already existing genes and traits, is possible. Nature is mindless and has no ability to design and program entirely new genes for entirely new traits.

    WHAT ABOUT NEW SPECIES: Although new species have come into existence, they don’t carry any new genes. They’ve become new species only because they can’t be crossed back with the original parent stock for various biological reasons. A biological “kind” allows for new species but not new genes. Nature has no ability to invent new genes for new traits. Only limited variations and adaptations are possible in nature, and all strictly within a biological “kind” (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.).

    All species of plants and animals in the fossil record are found complete, fully formed, and fully functional. This is powerful evidence that all species came into existence as complete and fully formed from the beginning. This is only possible by creation.

    What about natural selection? Natural selection doesn’t produce biological traits or variations. It can only “select” from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. That’s why it’s called natural “selection.” The real issue is what biological variations are possible, not natural selection. Only variations and mutations of already existing genes or traits are possible.

    Dr. Randy J. Guliuzza’s extensive research points to a better explanation than natural selection for variation and adaptation in nature. Dr. Guliuzza explains that species have pre-engineered mechanisms that enable organisms to continuously track and respond to environmental changes with system elements that correspond to human-designed tracking systems. This model is called CET (continuous environmental tracking). His research strongly indicates that living things have been pre-engineered to produce the right adaptations and changes required to live in changing environments. It’s much like a car that’s been pre-engineered so that the head lights turn on automatically when day changes to night.

    Modern evolutionists believe and hope that over, supposedly, millions of years, random mutations in the genetic code caused by environmental radiation will generate entirely new genes for natural selection to use. This is total blind and irrational faith on the part of evolutionists. It’s much like believing that randomly changing the sequence of letters in a romance novel, over millions of years, will turn it into a book on astronomy! That’s the kind of blind faith macro-evolutionists have.

    Mutations are accidents in the genetic, are mostly harmful, and have no capability of producing greater complexity in the code. Even if a good accident occurred, for every good one there would be hundreds of harmful ones with the net result, over time, being harmful, even lethal, to the species. Even if a single mutation is not immediately harmful, the accumulation of mutations over time will be harmful. At best, mutations only produce further variations within a natural species. Most biological variations are not due to mutations but from new combinations of already existing genes.

    What about genetic and biological similarities between species? Genetic information, like other forms of information, cannot happen by chance, so it is more logical to believe that genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes. It doesn’t mean all forms of life are biologically related! Only genetic similarities within a natural species proves relationship because it’s only within a natural species that members can interbreed and reproduce.

    The actual similarity between ape and human DNA is between 70-87% not 99.8% as commonly believed. The original research stating 99.8% similarity was based on ignoring contradicting evidence. Only a certain segment of DNA between apes and humans was compared, not the entire DNA genome.

    All the fossils that have been used to support human evolution have been found to be either hoaxes, non-human, or human, but not non-human and human (i.e. Neanderthal Man was discovered later to be fully human).

    There has never been unanimous agreement among evolutionary scientists on ANY fossil evidence that has been used to support human evolution over the Many years, Including LUCY.

    Also, so-called “Junk DNA” isn’t junk. Although these “non-coding” segments of DNA don’t code for proteins, they have recently been found to be vital in regulating gene expression (i.e. when, where, and how genes are expressed, so they’re not “junk”).

    Read the author’s Internet article, NO MEAT-EATING ANIMALS EXISTED IN THE BEGINNING

    Visit my latest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION (This site answers many arguments, both old and new, that have been used by evolutionists to support their theory)


    * I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities.

  2. Babu G. Ranganathan,

    the most prominent features of the fossil record is the Cambrian explosion, in which the major groups of animals (called phyla) appeared around the same geological time in a period called the Cambrian, fully formed and without fossil evidence that they diverged from a common ancestor.
    The Cambrian explosion can also be seen on smaller scales throughout the fossil record. Species tend to appear abruptly in the fossil record and then persist unchanged for some period of time (a phenomenon called stasis) before they disappear. The “inconceivably great” numbers of transitional links postulated by Darwin are missing not just in the Cambrian explosion, but throughout the fossil record.

    Also random mutations in the genetic code aren’t actually random. It turns out that mutation are very nonrandom and it’s nonrandom in a way that benefits.

    Just some few updates on the topic you wrote above. I believe in God and science. We must be open minded. We must help ourselves inorder to better ourselves. Science can’t explain everything.,way%20that%20benefits%20the%20plant.

  3. Propeller or corkscrew?

  4. A advanced Extra-Terrestrial Race created man and manipulatid our DNA genes early along the way.

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