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J Bacteriol. 1998 Apr;180(8):2175-85.

A membrane-associated protein, FliX, is required for an early step in Caulobacter flagellar assembly.

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  • 1Department of Developmental Biology, Beckman Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305-5427, USA.


The ordered assembly of the Caulobacter crescentus flagellum is accomplished in part through the organization of the flagellar structural genes in a regulatory hierarchy of four classes. Class II genes are the earliest to be expressed and are activated at a specific time in the cell cycle by the CtrA response regulator. In order to identify gene products required for early events in flagellar assembly, we used the known phenotypes of class II mutants to identify new class II flagellar genes. In this report we describe the isolation and characterization of a flagellar gene, fliX. A fliX null mutant is nonmotile, lacks a flagellum, and exhibits a marked cell division defect. Epistasis experiments placed fliX within class II of the flagellar regulatory hierarchy, suggesting that FliX functions at an early stage in flagellar assembly. The fliX gene encodes a 15-kDa protein with a putative N-terminal signal sequence. Expression of fliX is under cell cycle control, with transcription beginning relatively early in the cell cycle and peaking in Caulobacter predivisional cells. Full expression of fliX was found to be dependent on ctrA, and DNase I footprinting analysis demonstrated a direct interaction between CtrA and the fliX promoter. The fliX gene is located upstream and is divergently transcribed from the class III flagellar gene flgI, which encodes the basal body P-ring monomer. Analysis of the fliX-flgI intergenic region revealed an arrangement of cis-acting elements similar to that of another set of Caulobacter class II and class III flagellar genes, fliL-flgF, that is also divergently transcribed. In parallel with the FliL protein, FliX copurifies with the membrane fraction, and although its expression is cell cycle controlled, the protein is present throughout the cell cycle.

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