Conformational spread as a mechanism for cooperativity in the bacterial flagellar switch.
Bai F., Branch RW., Nicolau DV., Pilizota T., Steel BC., Maini PK., Berry RM.
The bacterial flagellar switch that controls the direction of flagellar rotation during chemotaxis has a highly cooperative response. This has previously been understood in terms of the classic two-state, concerted model of allosteric regulation. Here, we used high-resolution optical microscopy to observe switching of single motors and uncover the stochastic multistate nature of the switch. Our observations are in detailed quantitative agreement with a recent general model of allosteric cooperativity that exhibits conformational spread--the stochastic growth and shrinkage of domains of adjacent subunits sharing a particular conformational state. We expect that conformational spread will be important in explaining cooperativity in other large signaling complexes.