The flagellar motor of Vibrio alginolyticus undergoes major structural remodeling during rotational switching
The bacterial flagellar motor is an intricate nanomachine that switches rotational directions between counterclockwise (CCW) and clockwise (CW) to direct the migration of the cell. The cytoplasmic ring (C-ring) of the motor, which is composed of FliG, FliM, and FliN, is essential for controlling the rotational sense of the flagellum. However, the mechanism underlying rotational switching remains elusive. Here, we deployed cryo-electron tomography to visualize the C-ring in two rotational biased mutants (CCW-biased fliG -G214S and CW-locked fliG -G215A) in Vibrio alginolyticus . Sub-tomogram averaging was utilized to resolve two distinct conformations of the C-ring. Comparison of the C-ring structures in two rotational senses provide direct evidence that the C-ring undergoes major structural remodeling during rotational switch. Specifically, FliG conformational changes elicit a large rearrangement of the C-ring that coincides with rotational switching, whereas FliM and FliN form a spiral-shaped base, likely stabilizing the C-ring during the conformational remodeling.
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