Regulation cascade of flagellar expression in Gram-negative bacteria

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2003 Oct;27(4):505-23. doi: 10.1016/S0168-6445(03)00064-0.


Flagellar motility helps bacteria to reach the most favourable environments and to successfully compete with other micro-organisms. These complex organelles also play an important role in adhesion to substrates, biofilm formation and virulence process. In addition, because their synthesis and functioning are very expensive for the cell (about 2% of biosynthetic energy expenditure in Escherichia coli) and may induce a strong immune response in the host organism, the expression of flagellar genes is highly regulated by environmental conditions. In the past few years, many data have been published about the regulation of motility in polarly and laterally flagellated bacteria. However, the mechanism of motility control by environmental factors and by some regulatory proteins remains largely unknown. In this respect, recent experimental data suggest that the master regulatory protein-encoding genes at the first level of the cascade are the main target for many environmental factors. This mechanism might require DNA topology alterations of their regulatory regions. Finally, despite some differences the polar and lateral flagellar cascades share many functional similarities, including a similar hierarchical organisation of flagellar systems. The remarkable parallelism in the functional organisation of flagellar systems suggests an evolutionary conservation of regulatory mechanisms in Gram-negative bacteria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Flagella / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data