Bacteria that express lateral flagella enable dissection of the multifunctional roles of flagella in pathogenesis


  • Sylvia M Kirov

    Corresponding author
    1. Discipline of Pathology, University of Tasmania Clinical School, 43 Collins St., Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia
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Flagella are much more than organelles of locomotion and have multiple roles that contribute to pathogenesis. Bacteria, such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Aeromonas spp., that possess two distinct flagellar systems (a polar flagellum for swimming in liquid and lateral flagella for swarming over surfaces) are relatively uncommon and provide ideal models for the independent investigation of the contributions of these different types of motility and other flagellar functions to virulence and how they are controlled. Studies with the above organisms have already increased our understanding of how bacteria sense and colonize surfaces forming biofilms that enable them to survive and persist in hostile environments. These insights are helping to identify possible new targets for novel antimicrobials that will both prevent or disrupt these processes and enhance the effectiveness of existing antibiotics. Aeromonas lateral flagella, in addition to mediating swarming motility, appear to be adhesins in their own right, contribute to microcolony formation and efficient biofilm formation on surfaces, and possibly facilitate host cell invasion. It is, therefore, likely that the ability to express lateral flagella is a significant virulence determinant for the Aeromonas strains able to cause persistent and dysenteric infections in the gastrointestinal tract, but further work is needed to establish this.