Flagellar perturbations activate adhesion through two distinct pathways in Caulobacter crescentus
Bacteria carry out sophisticated developmental programs to colonize exogenous surfaces. The rotary flagellum, a dynamic machine that drives motility, is a key regulator of surface colonization. The specific signals recognized by flagella and the pathways by which those signals are transduced to coordinate adhesion remain subjects of debate. Mutations that disrupt flagellar assembly in the dimorphic bacterium Caulobacter crescentus stimulate the production of a polysaccharide adhesin called the
... oldfast. Using a genome-wide phenotyping approach, we compared surface adhesion profiles in wild-type and flagellar mutant backgrounds of C. crescentus. We identified a diverse set of flagellar mutations that enhance adhesion by inducing a hyper-holdfast phenotype and discovered a second set of mutations that suppress this phenotype. Epistasis analysis of the flagellar signaling suppressor (fss) mutations demonstrated that the flagellum stimulates holdfast production via two genetically distinct pathways. The developmental regulator PleD contributes to holdfast induction in mutants disrupted at both early and late stages of flagellar assembly. Mutants disrupted at late stages of flagellar assembly, which retain an intact rotor complex, induce holdfast production through an additional process that requires the MotAB stator and its associated diguanylate cyclase, DgcB. We have assigned a subset of the fss genes to either the stator- or pleD-dependent networks and characterized two previously unidentified motility genes that contribute to the stator-dependent pathway. We propose a model in which the flagellum integrates both developmental and mechanical stimuli to coordinate adhesion.