• Variability in bacterial flagella re-growth patterns after breakage.

      Paradis, Guillaume; Chevance, Fabienne F V; Liou, Willisa; Renault, Thibaud T; Hughes, Kelly T; Rainville, Simon; Erhardt, Marc; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr.7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-04-28)
      Many bacteria swim through liquids or crawl on surfaces by rotating long appendages called flagella. Flagellar filaments are assembled from thousands of subunits that are exported through a narrow secretion channel and polymerize beneath a capping scaffold at the tip of the growing filament. The assembly of a flagellum uses a significant proportion of the biosynthetic capacities of the cell with each filament constituting ~1% of the total cell protein. Here, we addressed a significant question whether a flagellar filament can form a new cap and resume growth after breakage. Re-growth of broken filaments was visualized using sequential 3-color fluorescent labeling of filaments after mechanical shearing. Differential electron microscopy revealed the formation of new cap structures on broken filaments that re-grew. Flagellar filaments are therefore able to re-grow if broken by mechanical shearing forces, which are expected to occur frequently in nature. In contrast, no re-growth was observed on filaments that had been broken using ultrashort laser pulses, a technique allowing for very local damage to individual filaments. We thus conclude that assembly of a new cap at the tip of a broken filament depends on how the filament was broken.