The Francis Crick Institute
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The gearbox of the bacterial flagellar motor switch

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-09-07, 11:39 authored by Alessandro Pandini, Faruck Morcos, Shahid Khan
Switching of flagellar motor rotation sense dictates bacterial chemotaxis. Multi-subunit FliM-FliG rotor rings couple signal protein binding in FliM with reversal of a distant FliG C-terminal (FliGC) helix involved in stator contacts. Subunit dynamics were examined in conformer ensembles generated by molecular simulations from the X-ray structures. Principal component analysis extracted collective motions. Interfacial loop immobilization by complex formation coupled elastic fluctuations of the FliM middle (FliMM) and FliG middle (FliGM) domains. Coevolved mutations captured interfacial dynamics as well as contacts. FliGM rotation was amplified via two central hinges to the FliGC helix. Intrinsic flexibility, reported by the FliGMC ensembles, reconciled conformers with opposite FliGC helix orientations. FliG domain stacking deformed the inter-domain linker and reduced flexibility; but conformational changes were not triggered by engineered linker deletions that cause a rotation-locked phenotype. These facts suggest that binary rotation states arise from conformational selection by stacking interactions.