Nanoscale-length control of the flagellar driveshaft requires hitting the tethered outer membrane

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Abstract

The bacterial flagellum exemplifies a system where even small deviations from the highly regulated flagellar assembly process can abolish motility and cause negative physiological outcomes. Consequently, bacteria have evolved elegant and robust regulatory mechanisms to ensure that flagellar morphogenesis follows a defined path, with each component self-assembling to predetermined dimensions. The flagellar rod acts as a driveshaft to transmit torque from the cytoplasmic rotor to the external filament. The rod self-assembles to a defined length of ~25 nanometers. Here, we provide evidence that rod length is limited by the width of the periplasmic space between the inner and outer membranes. The length of Braun's lipoprotein determines periplasmic width by tethering the outer membrane to the peptidoglycan layer.

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