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J Bacteriol. 1993 Jun;175(11):3361-71.

Identification of genes encoding components of the swarmer cell flagellar motor and propeller and a sigma factor controlling differentiation of Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

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  • 1Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706.


Vibrio parahaemolyticus possesses two distinct motility systems, the polar system used for swimming in liquid environments and the lateral system used for swarming over surfaces. Growth on surfaces induces swarmer cell differentiation and expression of the lateral motility system. Mutants, created by transposon mutagenesis of a clone expressing lateral flagellin and gene disruption in V. parahaemolyticus, were unable to swarm and failed to make lateral flagellin; therefore, unlike the case for the polar system, there is one gene (lafA) encoding lateral flagellin. In addition to lafA, other genes required for swarming but not for swimming were identified by gene replacement mutagenesis. The nucleotide sequence of the clone determined open reading frames (ORFs) and deduced amino acid sequences showed similarities to flagellar components of other bacteria: flagellin, hook-associated protein (HAP2), motor components, and flagellar sigma factor (sigma 28). Many sigma 28 factors have been shown to recognize cognate promoters; however, expression of lafA in Escherichia coli required LafS, and E. coli sigma 28 did not substitute. Also, there were no sequences preceding genes encoding flagellin or HAP2 resembling the sigma 28 consensus promoter. The product of the sigma-like gene seems to be a unique member of the sigma 28 cluster. It appears the result of requiring expression for immunodetection of flagellin clones was that the sigma locus was fortuitously cloned, since the sigma and lafA loci were not contiguous in the chromosome. This work initiates identification and placement of genes in a scheme of control for swarmer cell differentiation; three levels have been identified in the transcriptional hierarchy.

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