• Bacterial flagella grow through an injection-diffusion mechanism.

      Renault, Thibaud T; Abraham, Anthony O; Bergmiller, Tobias; Paradis, Guillaume; Rainville, Simon; Charpentier, Emmanuelle; Guet, Călin C; Tu, Yuhai; Namba, Keiichi; Keener, James P; et al. (2017-03-06)
      The bacterial flagellum is a self-assembling nanomachine. The external flagellar filament, several times longer than a bacterial cell body, is made of a few tens of thousands subunits of a single protein: flagellin. A fundamental problem concerns the molecular mechanism of how the flagellum grows outside the cell, where no discernible energy source is available. Here, we monitored the dynamic assembly of individual flagella using in situ labelling and real-time immunostaining of elongating flagellar filaments. We report that the rate of flagellum growth, initially ∼1,700 amino acids per second, decreases with length and that the previously proposed chain mechanism does not contribute to the filament elongation dynamics. Inhibition of the proton motive force-dependent export apparatus revealed a major contribution of substrate injection in driving filament elongation. The combination of experimental and mathematical evidence demonstrates that a simple, injection-diffusion mechanism controls bacterial flagella growth outside the cell.
    • A flagellum-specific chaperone facilitates assembly of the core type III export apparatus of the bacterial flagellum.

      Fabiani, Florian D; Renault, Thibaud T; Peters, Britta; Dietsche, Tobias; Gálvez, Eric J C; Guse, Alina; Freier, Karen; Charpentier, Emmanuelle; Strowig, Till; Franz-Wachtel, Mirita; et al. (2017-08)
      Many bacteria move using a complex, self-assembling nanomachine, the bacterial flagellum. Biosynthesis of the flagellum depends on a flagellar-specific type III secretion system (T3SS), a protein export machine homologous to the export machinery of the virulence-associated injectisome. Six cytoplasmic (FliH/I/J/G/M/N) and seven integral-membrane proteins (FlhA/B FliF/O/P/Q/R) form the flagellar basal body and are involved in the transport of flagellar building blocks across the inner membrane in a proton motive force-dependent manner. However, how the large, multi-component transmembrane export gate complex assembles in a coordinated manner remains enigmatic. Specific for most flagellar T3SSs is the presence of FliO, a small bitopic membrane protein with a large cytoplasmic domain. The function of FliO is unknown, but homologs of FliO are found in >80% of all flagellated bacteria. Here, we demonstrate that FliO protects FliP from proteolytic degradation and promotes the formation of a stable FliP-FliR complex required for the assembly of a functional core export apparatus. We further reveal the subcellular localization of FliO by super-resolution microscopy and show that FliO is not part of the assembled flagellar basal body. In summary, our results suggest that FliO functions as a novel, flagellar T3SS-specific chaperone, which facilitates quality control and productive assembly of the core T3SS export machinery.