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Mol Microbiol. 2010 Mar;75(5):1272-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2010.07050.x. Epub 2010 Feb 1.

The role of the FliK molecular ruler in hook-length control in Salmonella enterica.

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Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


A molecular ruler, FliK, controls the length of the flagellar hook. FliK measures hook length and catalyses the secretion-substrate specificity switch from rod-hook substrate specificity to late substrate secretion, which includes the filament subunits. Here, we show normal hook-length control and filament assembly in the complete absence of the C-ring thus refuting the previous 'cup' model for hook-length control. Mutants of C-ring components, which are reported to produce short hooks, show a reduced rate of hook-basal body assembly thereby allowing for a premature secretion-substrate specificity switch. Unlike fliK null mutants, hook-length control in an autocleavage-defective mutant of flhB, the protein responsible for the switch to late substrate secretion, is completely abolished. FliK deletion variants that retain the ability to measure hook length are secreted thus demonstrating that FliK directly measures rod-hook length during the secretion process. Finally, we present a unifying model accounting for all published data on hook-length control in which FliK acts as a molecular ruler that takes measurements of rod-hook length while being intermittently secreted during the assembly process of the hook-basal body complex.

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