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Construction and operation of bacterial flagella

C. R. Calladine
Science Progress (1933-)
Vol. 68, No. 271 (Autumn 1983), pp. 365-385
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43420571
Page Count: 21
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Construction and operation of bacterial flagella
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Abstract

Bacteria such as Salmonella are propelled by stiff slender corkscrew-like structures called flagella, which are driven by rotary motors. These helical filaments are built from a single type of building-block—the protein molecule flagellin-by a process of self-assembly. They have some remarkable properties, including the ability to change from one helical form to another in a variety of circumstances. The paper explains how the construction of a helical filament from a single type of subunit requires the subunit to have a bi-stable feature; and it shows how this feature leads to an explanation of the observed polymorphism of the flagella. The discussion is conducted in terms of classical structural mechanics, and it is argued that the mechanical design requirements of the building block are consistent with the known properties of protein molecules.

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