FlhF proteins are putative GTPases that are often necessary for one or more steps in flagellar organelle development in polarly flagellated bacteria. In Campylobacter jejuni, FlhF is required for σ54-dependent flagellar gene expression and flagellar biosynthesis, but how FlhF influences these processes is unknown. Furthermore, the GTPase activity of any FlhF protein and the requirement of this speculated activity for steps in flagellar biosynthesis remain uncharacterized. We show here that C. jejuni FlhF hydrolyzes GTP, indicating that these proteins are GTPases. C. jejuni mutants producing FlhF proteins with reduced GTPase activity were not severely defective for σ54-dependent flagellar gene expression, unlike a mutant lacking FlhF. Instead, these mutants had a propensity to lack flagella or produce flagella in improper numbers or at nonpolar locations, indicating that GTP hydrolysis by FlhF is required for proper flagellar biosynthesis. Additional studies focused on elucidating a possible role for FlhF in σ 54-dependent flagellar gene expression were conducted. These studies revealed that FlhF does not influence production of or signaling between the flagellar export apparatus and the FlgSR two-component regulatory system to activate σ54. Instead, our data suggest that FlhF functions in an independent pathway that converges with or works downstream of the flagellar export apparatus-FlgSR pathway to influence σ54-dependent gene expression. This study provides corroborative biochemical and genetic analyses suggesting that different activities of the C. jejuni FlhF GTPase are required for distinct steps in flagellar gene expression and biosynthesis. Our findings are likely applicable to many polarly flagellated bacteria that utilize FlhF in flagellar biosynthesis processes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology