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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Aug;1843(8):1642-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2013.09.005. Epub 2013 Sep 21.

Protein export through the bacterial flagellar type III export pathway.

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Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences, Osaka University, 1-3 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan. Electronic address:


For construction of the bacterial flagellum, which is responsible for bacterial motility, the flagellar type III export apparatus utilizes both ATP and proton motive force across the cytoplasmic membrane and exports flagellar proteins from the cytoplasm to the distal end of the nascent structure. The export apparatus consists of a membrane-embedded export gate made of FlhA, FlhB, FliO, FliP, FliQ, and FliR and a water-soluble ATPase ring complex consisting of FliH, FliI, and FliJ. FlgN, FliS, and FliT act as substrate-specific chaperones that do not only protect their cognate substrates from degradation and aggregation in the cytoplasm but also efficiently transfer the substrates to the export apparatus. The ATPase ring complex facilitates the initial entry of the substrates into the narrow pore of the export gate. The export gate by itself is a proton-protein antiporter that uses the two components of proton motive force, the electric potential difference and the proton concentration difference, for different steps of the export process. A specific interaction of FlhA with FliJ located in the center of the ATPase ring complex allows the export gate to efficiently use proton motive force to drive protein export. The ATPase ring complex couples ATP binding and hydrolysis to its assembly-disassembly cycle for rapid and efficient protein export cycle. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Protein trafficking and secretion in bacteria. Guest Editors: Anastassios Economou and Ross Dalbey.


ATPase; Bacterial flagellum; Chaperone; Flagellar assembly; Proton motive force; Type III protein export

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