Systematic deletion analyses of the fla genes in the flagella operon identify several genes essential for proper assembly and function of flagella in the archaeon, Methanococcus maripaludis

Mol Microbiol. 2007 Nov;66(3):596-609. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05913.x. Epub 2007 Sep 20.


The archaeal flagellum is a unique motility apparatus in the prokaryotic domain, distinct from the bacterial flagellum. Most of the currently recognized archaeal flagella-associated genes fall into a single fla operon that contains the genes for the flagellin proteins (two or more genes designated as flaA or flaB), some variation of a set of conserved proteins of unknown function (flaC, flaD, flaE, flaF, flaG and flaH), an ATPase (flaI) and a membrane protein (flaJ). In addition, the flaD gene has been demonstrated to encode two proteins: a full-length gene product and a truncated product derived from an alternate, internal start site. A systematic deletion approach was taken using the methanogen Methanococcus maripaludis to investigate the requirement and a possible role for these proposed flagella-associated genes. Markerless in-frame deletion strains were created for most of the genes in the M. maripaludis fla operon. In addition, a strain lacking the truncated FlaD protein [FlaD M(191)I] was also created. DNA sequencing and Southern blot analysis confirmed each mutant strain, and the integrity of the remaining operon was confirmed by immunoblot. With the exception of the DeltaFlaB3 and FlaD M(191)I strains, all mutants were non-motile by light microscopy and non-flagellated by electron microscopy. A detailed examination of the DeltaFlaB3 mutant flagella revealed that these structures had no hook region, while the FlaD M(191)I strain appeared identical to wild type. Each deletion strain was complemented, and motility and flagellation was restored. Collectively, these results demonstrate for first time that these fla operon genes are directly involved and critically required for proper archaeal flagella assembly and function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaeal Proteins / genetics*
  • Archaeal Proteins / physiology
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Flagella / genetics
  • Flagella / metabolism
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Flagellin / genetics
  • Flagellin / metabolism
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genes, Archaeal
  • Methanococcus / genetics*
  • Methanococcus / physiology
  • Methanococcus / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Operon / genetics*
  • Plasmids / genetics


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Flagellin