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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2001 Sep;65(3):445-62, table of contents.

Polar flagellar motility of the Vibrionaceae.

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Department of Microbiology, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Polar flagella of Vibrio species can rotate at speeds as high as 100,000 rpm and effectively propel the bacteria in liquid as fast as 60 microm/s. The sodium motive force powers rotation of the filament, which acts as a propeller. The filament is complex, composed of multiple subunits, and sheathed by an extension of the cell outer membrane. The regulatory circuitry controlling expression of the polar flagellar genes of members of the Vibrionaceae is different from the peritrichous system of enteric bacteria or the polar system of Caulobacter crescentus. The scheme of gene control is also pertinent to other members of the gamma purple bacteria, in particular to Pseudomonas species. This review uses the framework of the polar flagellar system of Vibrio parahaemolyticus to provide a synthesis of what is known about polar motility systems of the Vibrionaceae. In addition to its propulsive role, the single polar flagellum of V. parahaemolyticus is believed to act as a tactile sensor controlling surface-induced gene expression. Under conditions that impede rotation of the polar flagellum, an alternate, lateral flagellar motility system is induced that enables movement through viscous environments and over surfaces. Although the dual flagellar systems possess no shared structural components and although distinct type III secretion systems direct the simultaneous placement and assembly of polar and lateral organelles, movement is coordinated by shared chemotaxis machinery.

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