Publications associated with Biological Physics

Domain-swap polymerization drives the self-assembly of the bacterial flagellar motor.

Nature structural & molecular biology 23 (2016) 197-203

MA Baker, RM Hynson, LA Ganuelas, NS Mohammadi, CW Liew, AA Rey, AP Duff, AE Whitten, CM Jeffries, NJ Delalez, YV Morimoto, D Stock, JP Armitage, AJ Turberfield, K Namba, RM Berry, LK Lee

Large protein complexes assemble spontaneously, yet their subunits do not prematurely form unwanted aggregates. This paradox is epitomized in the bacterial flagellar motor, a sophisticated rotary motor and sensory switch consisting of hundreds of subunits. Here we demonstrate that Escherichia coli FliG, one of the earliest-assembling flagellar motor proteins, forms ordered ring structures via domain-swap polymerization, which in other proteins has been associated with uncontrolled and deleterious protein aggregation. Solution structural data, in combination with in vivo biochemical cross-linking experiments and evolutionary covariance analysis, revealed that FliG exists predominantly as a monomer in solution but only as domain-swapped polymers in assembled flagellar motors. We propose a general structural and thermodynamic model for self-assembly, in which a structural template controls assembly and shapes polymer formation into rings.

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