Volume 15 (2018) Pages 28-32
The bacterial flagellar hook is a short, highly curved tubular structure connecting the basal body as a rotary motor and the filament as a helical propeller to function as a universal joint to transmit motor torque to the filament regardless of its orientation. This highly curved form is known to be part of a supercoil as observed in the polyhook structure. The subunit packing interactions in the Salmonella hook structure solved in the straight form gave clear insights into the mechanisms of its bending flexibility and twisting rigidity. Salmonella FlgE consists of four domains, D0, Dc, D1 and D2, arranged from inside to outside of the tube, and an atomic model of the supercoiled hook built to simulate the hook shape observed in the native flagellum suggested that the supercoiled form is stabilized by near-axial interactions of the D2 domains on the inner surface of the supercoil. Here we show that the deletion of domain D2 from FlgE makes the hook straight, providing evidence to support the proposed hook supercoiling mechanism that it is the near-axial interactions between the D2 domains that stabilize the highly curved hook structure.