The bacterial flagellar motor (BFM) is a self-assembling rotary nanomachine. It converts a flux of cations into the mechanical rotation of long filaments that propel bacteria through viscous media. The BFM contains a torque-generating ring that is complete with molecular machinery known as the switch complex that allows it to reverse directions. With four billion years of optimization, the BFM probably offers the pinnacle of sophisticated nanorotor design. Moreover as one of the best-characterized large biomolecular complexes, it offers the potential for convergence between nanotechnology and biology, which requires an atomic level understanding of BFM structure and function. This review focuses on current molecular models of the reversible BFM and the strategies used to derive them.
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