Prokaryotic motility structures

Microbiology (Reading). 2003 Feb;149(Pt 2):295-304. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.25948-0.


Prokaryotes use a wide variety of structures to facilitate motility. The majority of research to date has focused on swimming motility and the molecular architecture of the bacterial flagellum. While intriguing questions remain, especially concerning the specialized export system involved in flagellum assembly, for the most part the structural components and their location within the flagellum and function are now known. The same cannot be said of the other apparati including archaeal flagella, type IV pili, the junctional pore, ratchet structure and the contractile cytoskeleton used by a variety of organisms for motility. In these cases, many of the structural components have yet to be identified and the mechanism of action that results in motility is often still poorly understood. Research on the bacterial flagellum has greatly aided our understanding of not only motility but also protein secretion and genetic regulation systems. Continued study and understanding of all prokaryotic motility structures will provide a wealth of knowledge that is sure to extend beyond the bounds of prokaryotic movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics
  • Archaea / physiology*
  • Archaea / ultrastructure
  • Archaeal Proteins / genetics
  • Archaeal Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / ultrastructure
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Flagella / chemistry
  • Flagella / ultrastructure*
  • Movement


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins