Spatial arrangement of several flagellins within bacterial flagella improves motility in different environments

Marco Kühn, Felix Schmidt, Nicola Ellen Farthing, Florian Rossmann, Bina Helm, Laurence George Wilson, Bruno Eckhardt, Kai Thormann

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Bacterial flagella are helical proteinaceous fibers, composed of the protein flagellin, that confer motility to many bacterial species. The genomes of about half of all flagellated species include more than one flagellin gene, for reasons mostly unknown. Here we show that two flagellins (FlaA and FlaB) are spatially arranged in the polar flagellum of Shewanella putrefaciens, with FlaA being more abundant close to the motor and FlaB in the remainder of the flagellar filament. Observations of swimming trajectories and numerical simulations demonstrate that this segmentation improves motility in a range of environmental conditions, compared to mutants with single-flagellin filaments. In particular, it facilitates screw-like motility, which enhances cellular spreading through obstructed environments. Similar mechanisms may apply to other bacterial species and may explain the maintenance of multiple flagellins to form the flagellar filament.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5369
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2018

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© The Author(s) 2018.

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