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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Jul;41(1):117-30.

Regulation of late flagellar gene transcription and cell division by flagellum assembly in Caulobacter crescentus.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and, Molecular Biology Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1569 USA.


Biogenesis of the single polar flagellum of Caulobacter crescentus is regulated by a complex interplay of cell cycle events and the progression of flagellum assembly. The expression of class III/IV flagellar genes requires the assembly of an early flagellar basal body structure, encoded by class II genes, and is activated by the transcription factor FlbD. Previous experiments indicated that the class II flagellar gene, flbE, encoded a trans-acting factor that was required for FlbD activity. Here, using mutant alleles of flbE we have determined that FlbE is either a structural component of the flagellum or is required for flagellar assembly and does not, as originally proposed, function as a trans-acting factor. We also demonstrate that two deleted derivatives of flbE have a dominant negative effect on the transcriptional activation of class III/IV flagellar genes that can be relieved by a gain-of-function mutation in flbD called bfa. This same mutation in flbD has been shown to restore class III/IV transcription in the absence of early class II flagellar assembly. These deleted mutants of flbE also exhibited a filamentous cell phenotype that was indistinguishable from that previously observed in class II flagellar mutants. Introduction of a flbD-bfa mutation into these cells expressing the deleted alleles of flbE, as well as several class II mutant strains, restored normal cell division and FtsZ localization. These results suggest that class III/IV transcription and a step in cell division are coupled to flagellar assembly by the same genetic pathway.

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