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Biochem Soc Trans. 2011 Jan;39(1):64-9. doi: 10.1042/BST0390064.

Assembly and function of the archaeal flagellum.

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  • 1Molecular Biology of Archaea, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Karl-von-Frisch-Strasse 10, 35043 Marburg, Germany.


Motility is a common behaviour in prokaryotes. Both bacteria and archaea use flagella for swimming motility, but it has been well documented that structures of the flagellum from these two domains of life are completely different, although they contribute to a similar function. Interestingly, information available to date has revealed that structurally archaeal flagella are more similar to bacterial type IV pili rather than to bacterial flagella. With the increasing genome sequence information and advancement in genetic tools for archaea, identification of the components involved in the assembly of the archaeal flagellum is possible. A subset of these components shows similarities to components from type IV pilus-assembly systems. Whereas the molecular players involved in assembly of the archaeal flagellum are being identified, the mechanics and dynamics of the assembly of the archaeal flagellum have yet to be established. Recent computational analysis in our laboratory has identified conserved highly charged loop regions within one of the core proteins of the flagellum, the membrane integral protein FlaJ, and predicted that these are involved in the interaction with the assembly ATPase FlaI. Interestingly, considerable variation was found among the loops of FlaJ from the two major subkingdoms of archaea, the Euryarchaeota and the Crenarchaeota. Understanding the assembly pathway and creating an interaction map of the molecular players in the archaeal flagellum will shed light on the details of the assembly and also the evolutionary relationship to the bacterial type IV pili-assembly systems.

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