The archaellum is the macromolecular machinery that Archaea use for propulsion or surface adhesion, enabling them to proliferate and invade new territories. The molecular composition of the archaellum and of the motor that drives it appears to be entirely distinct from that of the functionally equivalent bacterial flagellum and flagellar motor. Yet, the structure of the archaellum machinery is scarcely known. Using combined modes of electron cryo-microscopy (cryoEM), we have solved the structure of the Pyrococcus furiosus archaellum filament at 4.2 Å resolution and visualise the architecture and organisation of its motor complex in situ. This allows us to build a structural model combining the archaellum and its motor complex, paving the way to a molecular understanding of archaeal swimming motion.
Keywords: Pyrococcus furiosus; archaea; archaellum; biophysics; electron cryo-microscopy; electron cryo-tomography; helical reconstruction; structural biology.