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Nature. 2004 Oct 28;431(7012):1062-8.

Structure of the bacterial flagellar hook and implication for the molecular universal joint mechanism.

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Dynamic NanoMachine Project, ICORP, JST, 1-3 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan.


The bacterial flagellum is a motile organelle, and the flagellar hook is a short, highly curved tubular structure that connects the flagellar motor to the long filament acting as a helical propeller. The hook is made of about 120 copies of a single protein, FlgE, and its function as a nano-sized universal joint is essential for dynamic and efficient bacterial motility and taxis. It transmits the motor torque to the helical propeller over a wide range of its orientation for swimming and tumbling. Here we report a partial atomic model of the hook obtained by X-ray crystallography of FlgE31, a major proteolytic fragment of FlgE lacking unfolded terminal regions, and by electron cryomicroscopy and three-dimensional helical image reconstruction of the hook. The model reveals the intricate molecular interactions and a plausible switching mechanism for the hook to be flexible in bending but rigid against twisting for its universal joint function.

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