Vibrio has a polar flagellum driven by sodium ions for swimming. The force-generating stator unit consists of PomA and PomB. PomA contains four-transmembrane regions and a cytoplasmic domain of approximately 100 residues which interacts with the rotor protein, FliG, to be important for the force generation of rotation. The three-dimensional structure of the stator shows that the cytosolicinterface (CI) helix of PomA is located parallel to the inner membrane. In this study, we investigated the function of CI helix and its role as stator. Systematic proline mutagenesis showed that residues K64, F66, and M67 were important for this function. The mutant stators did not assemble around the rotor. Moreover, the growth defect caused by PomB plug deletion was suppressed by these mutations. We speculate that the mutations affect the structure of the helices extending from TM3 and TM4 and reduce the structural stability of the stator complex. This study suggests that the helices parallel to the inner membrane play important roles in various processes, such as the hoop-like function in securing the stability of the stator complex and the ion conduction pathway, which may lead to the elucidation of the ion permeation and assembly mechanism of the stator.
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