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Mol Microbiol. 2007 Jun;64(5):1404-15.

FliK regulates flagellar hook length as an internal ruler.

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Department of Life Sciences, Prefectural University of Hiroshima, 562 Nanatsuka, Shobara, Hiroshima 727-0023, Japan,


The mechanism of length control of the flagellar hook is under debate between two theories. One claims that the FliK directly measures the hook length as a molecular ruler, while the other claims that the cytoplasmic substructure measures the amount of hook subunits to determine the hook length. Both agree that the FliK C-terminal domain catalyses the substrate-specificity switch to terminate hook elongation. In this study, we systematically created fliK mutants with deletions and insertions at various sites within the FliK N-terminal domain and analysed their effects on the final hook length. Insertions of peptide fragments from the Yersinia YscP into FliK gave rise to hooks with defined lengths, which was proportional to the molecular size of the FliK-YscP chimeras. Among fliK deletion mutants, only those with small truncations in three specific sites of FliK produced hooks of a defined, shortened length. For the majority of deletion mutants, FliK was secreted, but hook length was not controlled. On the other hand, for some deletion mutants FliK was not secreted, but the hook length was controlled, indicating that FliK secretion is not necessary for hook-length control. We conclude that FliK regulates hook length as an internal molecular ruler.

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