Bringing order to a complex molecular machine: The assembly of the bacterial flagella
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The bacterial flagellum is an example of elegance in molecular engineering. Flagella dependent motility is a widespread and evolutionarily ancient trait. Diverse bacterial species have evolved unique structural adaptations enabling them to migrate in their environmental niche. Variability exists in the number, location and configuration of flagella, and reflects unique adaptations of the microorganism. The most detailed analysis of flagellar morphogenesis and structure has focused on Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica. The appendage assembles sequentially from the inner to the outer-most structures. Additionally the temporal order of gene expression correlates with the assembly order of encoded proteins into the final structure. The bacterial flagellar apparatus includes an essential basal body complex that comprises the export machinery required for assembly of the hook and flagellar filament. A review outlining the current understanding of the protein interactions that make up this remarkable structure will be presented, and the associated temporal genetic regulation will be briefly discussed.
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