Flagella are composed of three basic parts (figure 3.39). The filament is the portion extending into the exterior environment. It is composed of identical subunits of a protein called fla-gellin. These subunits form a chain that twists into a helical structure with a hollow core. Connecting the filament to the cell surface is a curved structure, the hook. The basal body anchors the flagellum to the cell wall and cytoplasmic membrane.
The numbers and arrangement of flagella can be used to characterize flagellated bacteria. For example, E. coli have flagella distributed over the entire surface, an arrangement called
peritrichous (peri means "around"). Other common bacteria have a polar flagellum, a single flagellum at one end of the cell. Less commonly, bacteria may have a tuft of flagella at one or both ends of a cell.
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