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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.