Refining the structure of the Halobacterium salinarum flagellar filament using the iterative helical real space reconstruction method: insights into polymorphism.

Shlomo Trachtenberg, Vitold E Galkin, Edward H Egelman


The eubacterial flagellar filament is an external, self-assembling, helical polymer approximately 220 A in diameter constructed from a highly conserved monomer, flagellin, which polymerizes externally at the distal end. The archaeal filament is only approximately 100 A in diameter, assembles at the proximal end and is constructed from different, glycosylated flagellins. Although the phenomenology of swimming is similar to that of eubacteria, the symmetry of the archebacterial filament is entirely different. Here, we extend our previous study on the flagellar coiled filament structure of strain R1M1 of Halobacterium salinarum. We use strain M175 of H.salinarum, which forms poly-flagellar bundles at high yield which, under conditions of relatively low ionic-strength (0.8 M versus 5 M) and low pH ( approximately 2.5 versus approximately 6.8), form straight filaments. We demonstrated previously that a single-particle approach to helical reconstruction has many advantages over conventional Fourier-Bessel methods when dealing with variable helical symmetry and heterogeneity. We show here that when this method is applied to the ordered helical structure of the archebacterial uncoiled flagellar filament, significant extensions in resolution can be obtained readily when compared to applying traditional helical techniques. The filament population can be separated into classes of different morphologies, which may represent polymorphic states. Using cryo-negatively stained images, a resolution of approximately 10-15 A has been achieved. Single alpha-helices can be fit into the reconstruction, supporting the proposed similarity of the structure to that of type IV bacterial pili.