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J Bacteriol. 1999 Oct;181(19):6160-70.

FlbT couples flagellum assembly to gene expression in Caulobacter crescentus.

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


The biogenesis of the polar flagellum of Caulobacter crescentus is regulated by the cell cycle as well as by a trans-acting regulatory hierarchy that functions to couple flagellum assembly to gene expression. The assembly of early flagellar structures (MS ring, switch, and flagellum-specific secretory system) is required for the transcription of class III genes, which encode the remainder of the basal body and the external hook structure. Similarly, the assembly of class III gene-encoded structures is required for the expression of the class IV flagellins, which are incorporated into the flagellar filament. Here, we demonstrate that mutations in flbT, a flagellar gene of unknown function, can restore flagellin protein synthesis and the expression of fljK::lacZ (25-kDa flagellin) protein fusions in class III flagellar mutants. These results suggest that FlbT functions to negatively regulate flagellin expression in the absence of flagellum assembly. Deletion analysis shows that sequences within the 5' untranslated region of the fljK transcript are sufficient for FlbT regulation. To determine the mechanism of FlbT-mediated regulation, we assayed the stability of fljK mRNA. The half-life (t(1/2)) of fljK mRNA in wild-type cells was approximately 11 min and was reduced to less than 1.5 min in a flgE (hook) mutant. A flgE flbT double mutant exhibited an mRNA t(1/2) of greater than 30 min. This suggests that the primary effect of FlbT regulation is an increased turnover of flagellin mRNA. The increased t(1/2) of fljK mRNA in a flbT mutant has consequences for the temporal expression of fljK. In contrast to the case for wild-type cells, fljK::lacZ protein fusions in the mutant are expressed almost continuously throughout the C. crescentus cell cycle, suggesting that coupling of flagellin gene expression to assembly has a critical influence on regulating cell cycle expression.

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