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J Bacteriol. 1999 Mar;181(5):1388-94.

Components of the Salmonella flagellar export apparatus and classification of export substrates.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8114, USA.


Until now, identification of components of the flagellar protein export apparatus has been indirect. We have now identified these components directly by establishing whether mutants defective in putative export components could translocate export substrates across the cytoplasmic membrane into the periplasmic space. Hook-type proteins could be exported to the periplasm of rod mutants, indicating that rod protein export does not have to precede hook-type protein export and therefore that both types of proteins belong to a single export class, the rod/hook-type class, which is distinct from the filament-type class. Hook-capping protein (FlgD) and hook protein (FlgE) required FlhA, FlhB, FliH, FliI, FliO, FliP, FliQ, and FliR for their export to the periplasm. In the case of flagellin as an export substrate, because of the phenomenon of hook-to-filament switching of export specificity, it was necessary to use temperature-sensitive mutants and establish whether flagellin could be exported to the cell exterior following a shift from the permissive to the restrictive temperature. Again, FlhA, FlhB, FliH, FliI, and FliO were required for its export. No suitable temperature-sensitive fliQ or fliR mutants were available. FliP appeared not to be required for flagellin export, but we suspect that the temperature-sensitive FliP protein continued to function at the restrictive temperature if incorporated at the permissive temperature. Thus, we conclude that these eight proteins are general components of the flagellar export pathway. FliJ was necessary for export of hook-type proteins (FlgD and FlgE); we were unable to test whether FliJ is needed for export of filament-type proteins. We suspect that FliJ may be a cytoplasmic chaperone for the hook-type proteins and possibly also for FliE and the rod proteins. FlgJ was not required for the export of the hook-type proteins; again, because of lack of a suitable temperature-sensitive mutant, we were unable to test whether it was required for export of filament-type proteins. Finally, it was established that there is an interaction between the processes of outer ring assembly and of penetration of the outer membrane by the rod and nascent hook, the latter process being of course necessary for passage of export substrates into the external medium. During the brief transition stage from completion of rod assembly and initiation of hook assembly, the L ring and perhaps the capping protein FlgD can be regarded as bona fide export components, with the L ring being in a formal sense the equivalent of the outer membrane secretin structure of type III virulence factor export systems.

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