Spirochaetes are bacteria responsible for several serious diseases, including Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), syphilis (Treponema pallidum) and leptospirosis (Leptospira interrogans), and contribute to periodontal diseases (Treponema denticola) 1. These spirochaetes employ an unusual form of flagella-based motility necessary for pathogenicity; indeed, spirochaete flagella (periplasmic flagella) reside and rotate within the periplasmic space 2-11. The universal joint or hook that links the rotary motor to the filament is composed of approximately 120-130 FlgE proteins, which in spirochaetes form an unusually stable, high-molecular-weight complex 9,12-17. In other bacteria, the hook can be readily dissociated by treatments such as heat 18. In contrast, spirochaete hooks are resistant to these treatments, and several lines of evidence indicate that the high-molecular-weight complex is the consequence of covalent crosslinking 12,13,17. Here, we show that T. denticola FlgE self-catalyses an interpeptide crosslinking reaction between conserved lysine and cysteine, resulting in the formation of an unusual lysinoalanine adduct that polymerizes the hook subunits. Lysinoalanine crosslinks are not needed for flagellar assembly, but they are required for cell motility and hence infection. The self-catalytic nature of FlgE crosslinking has important implications for protein engineering, and its sensitivity to chemical inhibitors provides a new avenue for the development of antimicrobials targeting spirochaetes.
We take your privacy seriously. You can review and change the way we collect information below.
These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.
Cookies used to make website functionality more relevant to you. These cookies perform functions like remembering presentation options or choices and, in some cases, delivery of web content that based on self-identified area of interests.
Cookies used to track the effectiveness of CDC public health campaigns through clickthrough data.
Cookies used to enable you to share pages and content that you find interesting on CDC.gov through third party social networking and other websites. These cookies may also be used for advertising purposes by these third parties.