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Site-directed crosslinking identifies the stator-rotor interaction surfaces in a hybrid bacterial flagellar motor

By Hiroyuki Terashima, Seiji Kojima, Michio Homma

Posted 08 Jan 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.07.425829

The bacterial flagellum is the motility organelle powered by a rotary motor. The rotor and stator elements of the motor are embedded in the cytoplasmic membrane. The stator units assemble around the rotor, and an ion flux (typically H+ or Na+) conducted through a channel of the stator induces conformational changes that generate rotor torque. Electrostatic interactions between the stator protein PomA in Vibrio (MotA in Escherichia coli) and the rotor protein FliG have been suggested by genetic analyses, but have not been demonstrated directly. Here, we used site-directed photo- and disulfide-crosslinking to provide direct evidence for the interaction. We introduced a UV-reactive amino acid, p-benzoyl-L-phenylalanine (pBPA), into the cytoplasmic region of PomA or the C-terminal region of FliG in intact cells. After UV irradiation, pBPA inserted at a number of positions formed a crosslink with FliG. PomA residue K89 gave the highest yield of crosslinks, suggesting that it is the PomA residue nearest to FliG. UV-induced crosslinking stopped motor rotation, and the isolated hook-basal body contained the crosslinked products. pBPA inserted to replace residues R281 or D288 in FliG formed crosslinks with the Escherichia coli stator protein, MotA. A cysteine residue introduced in place of PomA K89 formed disulfide crosslinks with cysteine inserted in place of FliG residues R281 and D288, and some other flanking positions. These results provide the first demonstration of direct physical interaction between specific residues in FliG and PomA/MotA.

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