The flagellins of Methanococcus voltae are encoded by a multigene family of four related genes (flaA, flaB1, flaB2, and flaB3). All four genes map within the same region of the genome, with the last three arranged in a direct tandem. Northern (RNA) blot and primer extension analyses of total cellular RNA indicate that all four genes are transcribed. The flaB1, flaB2, and flaB3 flagellins are transcribed as part of a large polycistronic message which encodes at least one more protein which is not a flagellin. An intercistronic stem-loop followed by a poly(T) tract located between the flaB2 and flaB3 genes appears to increase the resistance of the flaB1/flaB2 portion of this polycistronic message to digestion by endogenous RNases. The flaA gene, located approximately 600 bp upstream from the tandem, is transcribed as a separate message at very low levels. The four open reading frames encode proteins of molecular weights 23,900, 22,400, 22,800, and 25,500, much less than the Mr values of 33,000 and 31,000 for the flagellins calculated from sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of isolated flagellar filaments. Each flagellin contains multiple eukaryotic glycosylation signals (Arg-X-Ser/Thr), although they do not appear to be glycoproteins, and each has an 11- or 12-amino-acid leader peptide. The N termini of all four flagellins (amino acids 1 through 47 of the mature protein) are very hydrophobic, and this region shows a high degree of homology with the flagellins from Halobacterium halobium
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