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The bent-end morphology of Treponema phagedenis is associated with short, left-handed, periplasmic flagella.

By N W Charon, S F Goldstein, K Curci and R J Limberger


Treponema phagedenis Kazan 5 is a spirochete with multiple periplasmic flagella attached near each end of the cell cylinder. Dark-field microscopy revealed that most of the cell is right-handed (helix diameter, 0.23 micron; helix pitch, 1.74 microns), and the ends appear bent. These ends could move and gyrate while the central part of the cell remained stationary. The present study examines the basis for the bent-end characteristic. Motility mutants deficient in periplasmic flagella were found to lack the bent ends, and spontaneous revertants to motility regained the periplasmic flagella and bent-end characteristic. The length of the bent ends (2.40 microns) was found to be similar to the length of the periplasmic flagella as determined by electron microscopy (2.50 microns). The helix diameter of the bent ends was 0.57 micron, and the helix pitch of the bent ends was 1.85 microns. The periplasmic flagella were short relative to the length of the cells (15 microns) and, in contrast to the reports of others, did not overlap in the center of the cell. Similar results were found with T. phagedenis Reiter. The results taken together indicate that there is a causal relationship between the bent-end morphology and the presence of short periplasmic flagella. We report the first three-dimensional description of spirochete periplasmic flagella. Dark-field microscopy of purified periplasmic flagella revealed that these organelles were left-handed (helix diameter, 0.36 microns; helix pitch, 1.26 microns) and only 1 to 2 wavelengths long. Because of a right-handed cell cylinder and left-handed periplasmic flagella along with bent ends having helix diameters greater than those of either the cell cylinder or periplasmic flagella, we conclude that there is a complex interaction of the periplasmic flagella and the cell cylinder to form the bent ends. The results are discussed with respect to a possible mechanism of T. phagedenis motility

Topics: Research Article
Year: 1991
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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