Polar flagellum-defective mutants (Pof- Laf-) have been isolated from a lateral flagella-defective mutant (Pof+ Laf-). Among these Pof- Laf- mutants, polar-filamentless mutants, which have the hook structure but not the filament, were identified by electron microscopy. Their hooks were covered with a sheath structure which is contiguous to the outer membrane. The filament proteins, flagellins, were shed into the culture medium of these mutants. These flagellins could be sedimented by high-speed centrifugation even after heat or low pH treatment whereas the depolymerized flagellin of the Pof+ strain was degraded by these treatments. After Triton X-100 treatment, most flagellin of the filamentless mutants could no longer be sedimented, and was degraded. We observed vesicle-like structures on the tips of the hooks and in the flagellin fraction sedimented by high speed centrifugation. These results suggest that flagellin of the filamentless mutants is not assembled into the tip of the hook, but is excreted together with a membrane structure which is probably the sheath of polar flagella.
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