Caulobacter flagellar function, but not assembly, requires FliL, a non-polarly localized membrane protein present in all cell types

Journal of Molecular Biology
Urs JenalL Shapiro


Caulobacter crescentus has a single polar flagellum, which is assembled in the predivisional cell. Known flagellar genes encode structural and regulatory components that are required for flagellar assembly and function. These genes are organized in several classes which form a transcriptional regulatory hierarchy. A member of the Class II genes, the fliLM operon, encodes homologs of the Escherichia coli flagellar switch protein, FliM, and a protein with a hitherto unknown function, FliL. We report here that flagellar rotation requires the FliL protein. In-frame deletions in the chromosomal copy of the fliL gene result in cells that form a flagellum but are non-motile. The FliL protein was found to be associated with the inner membrane and to be present in all cell types. This is the first report of a Caulobacter crescentus protein that is essential for motility but is not spatially restricted to the region of the flagellar basal body. Although FliL is required for flagellar function, it is not part of the transcriptional hierarchy, supporting the hypothesis that, as is the case for the enterics, the regulatory hierarchy responds to assembly cues rather than directly to the expression of flagellar proteins.


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