Cell cycle-dependent degradation of a flagellar motor component requires a novel-type response regulator

Mol Microbiol. 1999 Apr;32(2):379-91. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1999.01358.x.


The poles of each Caulobacter crescentus cell undergo morphological development as a function of the cell cycle. A single flagellum assembled at one pole during the asymmetric cell division is later ejected and replaced by a newly synthesized stalk when the motile swarmer progeny differentiates into a sessile stalked cell. The removal of the flagellum during the swarmer-to-stalked cell transition coincides with the degradation of the FliF flagellar anchor protein. We report here that the cell cycle-dependent turnover of FliF does not require the structural components of the flagellum itself, arguing that it is the initial event leading to the ejection of the flagellum. Analysis of a polar development mutant, pleD, revealed that the pleD gene was required for efficient removal of FliF and for ejection of the flagellar structure during the swarmer-to-stalked cell transition. The PleD requirement for FliF degradation was also not dependent on the presence of any part of the flagellar structure. In addition, only 25% of the cells were able to synthesize a stalk during cell differentiation when PleD was absent. The pleD gene codes for a member of the response regulator family with a novel C-terminal regulatory domain. Mutational analysis confirmed that a highly conserved motif in the PleD C-terminal domain is essential to promote both FliF degradation and stalk biogenesis during cell differentiation. Signalling through the C-terminal domain of PleD is thus required for C. crescentus polar development. A second gene, fliL, was shown to be required for efficient turnover of FliF, but not for stalk biogenesis. The possible roles of PleD and FliL in C. crescentus polar development are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Caulobacter / genetics*
  • Caulobacter / growth & development
  • Caulobacter / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle*
  • Cell Polarity
  • Flagella / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genes, Regulator
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Mutation
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Flif protein, Bacteria
  • Membrane Proteins
  • PleD protein, Caulobacter crescentus