Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Microbiology, Immunology, and Cell Biology
The spirochete periplasmic flagellum has many unique attributes. One unusual characteristic is the flagellar hook. This structure serves as a universal joint coupling rotation of the membrane-bound motor to the flagellar filament. The hook is comprised of about 120 FlgE monomers, and in most bacteria these structures readily dissociate to monomers (∼ 50 kDa) when treated with heat and detergent. However, in spirochetes the FlgE monomers form a large mass of over 250 kDa [referred to as a high molecular weight complex (HMWC)] that is stable to these and other denaturing conditions. In this communication, we examined specific aspects with respect to the formation and structure of this complex. We found that the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi synthesized the HMWC throughout the in vitro growth cycle, and also in vivo when implanted in dialysis membrane chambers in rats. The HMWC was stable to formic acid, which supports the concept that the stability of the HMWC is dependent on covalent cross-linking of individual FlgE subunits. Mass spectrometry analysis of the HMWC from both wild type periplasmic flagella and polyhooks from a newly constructed ΔfliK mutant indicated that other proteins besides FlgE were not covalently joined to the complex, and that FlgE was the sole component of the complex. In addition, mass spectrometry analysis also indicated that the HMWC was composed of a polymer of the FlgE protein with both the N- and C-terminal regions remaining intact. These initial studies set the stage for a detailed characterization of the HMWC. Covalent cross-linking of FlgE with the accompanying formation of the HMWC we propose strengthens the hook structure for optimal spirochete motility.
Digital Commons Citation
Miller, Kelly A.; Motaleb, Md A.; Liu, Jun; Hu, Bo; Caimano, Melissa J.; Miller, Michael R.; and Charon, Nyles W., "Initial Characterization of the FlgE Hook High Molecular Weight Complex of Borrelia burgdorferi" (2014). Faculty & Staff Scholarship. 2550.
Miller KA, Motaleb MA, Liu J, Hu B, Caimano MJ, Miller MR, et al. (2014) Initial Characterization of the FlgE Hook High Molecular Weight Complex of Borrelia burgdorferi. PLoS ONE 9(5): e98338. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0098338