A flagellum of Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli consists of three structural parts, a basal body, a hook, and a filament. Because the fliK mutants produce elongated hooks, called polyhooks, lacking filament portions, the fliK gene product has been believed to be involved in both the determination of hook length and the initiation of the filament assembly. In the present study, we isolated two mutants from S. typhimurium which can form flagella even in the absence of the fliK gene product. Flagellar structures were fractionated from these suppressor mutants and inspected by electron microscopy. The suppressor mutants produced polyhook-filament complexes in the fliK mutant background, while they formed flagellar structures apparently indistinguishable from those of the wild-type strain in the fliK+ background. Genetic and sequence analyses of the suppressor mutations revealed that they are located near the 3'-end of the flhB gene, which has been believed to be involved in the early process of the basal body assembly. On the basis of these results, we discuss the mechanism of suppression of the fliK defects by the flhB mutations and propose a hypothesis on the export switching machinery of the flagellar proteins.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology