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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2001 Apr;25(2):147-74.

The archaeal flagellum: a different kind of prokaryotic motility structure.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ont. K7L 3N6, Canada.


The archaeal flagellum is a unique motility apparatus distinct in composition and likely in assembly from the bacterial flagellum. Gene families comprised of multiple flagellin genes co-transcribed with a number of conserved, archaeal-specific accessory genes have been identified in several archaea. However, no homologues of any bacterial genes involved in flagella structure have yet been identified in any archaeon, including those archaea in which the complete genome sequence has been published. Archaeal flagellins possess a highly conserved hydrophobic N-terminal sequence that is similar to that of type IV pilins and clearly unlike that of bacterial flagellins. Also unlike bacterial flagellins but similar to type IV pilins, archaeal flagellins are initially synthesized with a short leader peptide that is cleaved by a membrane-located peptidase. With recent advances in genetic transfer systems in archaea, knockouts have been reported in several genes involved in flagellation in different archaea. In addition, techniques to isolate flagella with attached hook and anchoring structures have been developed. Analysis of these preparations is under way to identify minor structural components of archaeal flagella. This and the continued isolation and characterization of flagella mutants should lead to significant advances in our knowledge of the composition and assembly of archaeal flagella.

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