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Jim Keener : Mechanisms of length regulation of flagella in Salmonella

Abstract: The construction of flagellar motors in motile bacteria such as Salmonella is a carefully regulated genetic process. Among the structures that are built are the hook and the filament. The length of the hook is tightly controlled while the length of filaments is less so. However, if a filament is broken off it will regrow, while a broken hook will not regrow. The question that will be addressed in this talk is how Salmonella detects and regulates the length of these structures. This is related to the more general question of how physical properties (such as size or length) can be detected by chemical signals and what those mechanisms are. In this talk, I will present mathematical models for the regulation of hook and filament length. The model for hook length regulation is based on the hypothesis that the hook length is determined by the rate of secretion of the length regulatory molecule FliK and a cleavage reaction with the gatekeeper molecule FlhB. A stochastic model for this interaction is built and analyzed, showing excellent agreement with hook length data. The model for filament length regulation is based on the hypothesis that the growth of filaments is diffusion limited and is measured by negative feedback involving the regulatory protein FlgM. Thus, the model includes diffusion on a one-dimensional domain with a moving boundary, coupled with a negative feedback chemical network. The model shows excellent qualitative agreement with data, although there are some interesting unresolved issues related to the quantitative results.

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