• Open Access

Characterizing the flagellar filament and the role of motility in bacterial prey-penetration by Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus

Authors

  • Carey Lambert,

    1. Institute of Genetics, School of Biology, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.
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  • Katy J. Evans,

    1. Institute of Genetics, School of Biology, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.
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  • Rob Till,

    1. Institute of Genetics, School of Biology, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.
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  • Laura Hobley,

    1. Institute of Genetics, School of Biology, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.
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  • Michael Capeness,

    1. Institute of Genetics, School of Biology, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.
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  • Snjezana Rendulic,

    1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Center for Comparative Genomics and Bioinformatics, 310 Wartik Building, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.
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  • Stephan C. Schuster,

    1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Center for Comparative Genomics and Bioinformatics, 310 Wartik Building, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.
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  • Shin-Ichi Aizawa,

    1. CREST ‘Soft Nano-Machine Project’, Innovation Plaza Hiroshima, 3-10-23 Kagamiyama, Higashi-Hiroshima 739-0046 Japan.
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  • R. Elizabeth Sockett

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Genetics, School of Biology, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.
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*E-mail liz.sockett@nottingham.ac.uk; Tel. (+44) 115 9194496; Fax (+44) 115 9709906.

Summary

The predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus swims rapidly by rotation of a single, polar flagellum comprised of a helical filament of flagellin monomers, contained within a membrane sheath and powered by a basal motor complex. Bdellovibrio collides with, enters and replicates within bacterial prey, a process previously suggested to firstly require flagellar motility and then flagellar shedding upon prey entry. Here we show that flagella are not always shed upon prey entry and we study the six fliC flagellin genes of B. bacteriovorus, finding them all conserved and expressed in genome strain HD100 and the widely studied lab strain 109J. Individual inactivation of five of the fliC genes gave mutant Bdellovibrio that still made flagella, and which were motile and predatory. Inactivation of the sixth fliC gene abolished normal flagellar synthesis and motility, but a disordered flagellar sheath was still seen. We find that this non-motile mutant was still able to predate when directly applied to lawns of YFP-labelled prey bacteria, showing that flagellar motility is not essential for prey entry but important for efficient encounters with prey in liquid environments.

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