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de la Mora, Javier; Uchida, Kaoru; del Campo, Ana Martinez; Camarena, Laura; Aizawa, Shin-ichi; Dreyfus, Georges (2015)


J. Bacteriol. 197(17):2859-2866
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Rhodobacter sphaeroides is a free-living alphaproteobacterium that contains two clusters of functional flagellar genes in its genome: one acquired by horizontal gene transfer (fla1) and one that is endogenous (fla2). We have shown that the Fla2 system is normally quiescent and under certain conditions produces polar flagella, while the Fla1 system is always active and produces a single flagellum at a nonpolar position. In this work we purified and characterized the structure and analyzed the composition of the Fla2 flagellum. The number of polar filaments per cell is 4.6 on average. By comparison with the Fla1 flagellum, the prominent features of the ultra structure of the Fla2 HBB are the absence of an H ring, thick and long hooks, and a smoother zone at the hook-filament junction. The Fla2 helical filaments have a pitch of 2.64 μm and a diameter of 1.4 μm, which are smaller than those of the Fla1 filaments. Fla2 filaments undergo polymorphic transitions in vitro and showed two polymorphs: curly (right-handed) and coiled. However, in vivo in free-swimming cells, we observed only a bundle of filaments, which should probably be left-handed. Together, our results indicate that Fla2 cell produces multiple right-handed polar flagella, which are not conventional but exceptional.