The Vibrio H-ring facilitates the outer membrane penetration of polar-sheathed flagellum
The bacterial flagellum has evolved as one of the most remarkable nanomachines in nature. It provides swimming and swarming motilities that are often essential for the bacterial life cycle and for pathogenesis. Many bacteria such as Salmonella and Vibrio species use flagella as an external propeller to move to favorable environments, while spirochetes utilize internal periplasmic flagella to drive a serpentine movement of the cell bodies through tissues. Here we use cryo-electron tomography to visualize the polar-sheathed flagellum of Vibrioalginolyticus with particular focus on a Vibrio specific feature, the H-ring. We characterized the H-ring by identifying its two components FlgT and FlgO. Surprisingly, we discovered that the majority of flagella are located within the periplasmic space in the absence of the H-ring, which are dramatically different from external flagella in wild-type cells. Our results indicate the H-ring has a novel function in facilitating the penetration of the outer membrane and the assembly of the external sheathed flagella. This unexpected finding is however consistent with the notion that the flagella have evolved to adapt highly diverse needs by receiving or removing accessary genes.
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