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J Bacteriol. 2013 Aug;195(16):3503-13. doi: 10.1128/JB.02091-12. Epub 2013 May 31.

Key amino acid residues involved in the transitions of L- to R-type protofilaments of the Salmonella flagellar filament.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Graduate School of Engineering, Gunma University, Kiryu, Japan.


The flagellar filament enables bacteria to swim by functioning as a helical propeller. The filament is a supercoiled assembly of a single protein, flagellin, and is formed by 11 protofilaments arranged in a circle. Bacterial swimming and tumbling correlate with changes of the various helical structures, called polymorphic transformation, that are determined by the ratios of two distinct forms of protofilaments, the L and R types. The polymorphic transformation is caused by transition of the protofilament between L and R types. Elucidation of this transition mechanism has been addressed by comparing the atomic structures of L- and R-type straight filaments or using massive molecular dynamic simulation. Here, we found amino acid residues required for the transition of the protofilament using fliC-intragenic suppressor analysis. We isolated a number of revertants producing supercoiled filaments from mutants with straight filaments and identified the second-site mutations in all of the revertants. The results suggest that Asp107, Gly426, and Ser448 and Ser106, Ala416, Ala427, and Arg431 are the key residues involved in inducing supercoiled filaments from the R- and the L-type straight filaments, respectively. Considering the structures of the R- and L-type protofilaments and the relationship between the rotation of the flagellar motor and the polymorphic transformation, we propose that Gly426, Ala427, and Arg431 contribute to the first stage of the transition and that Ser106, Asp107, and Ala416 play a role in propagating the transitions along the flagellar filament.

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