Lecture notes in Microbiology

Bacterial Cell Surface Structures and Appendages (Flagella, Fimbriae and Pili)


Fimbria vs pilus

Cell Surface Appendages of Bacteria
(Flagella vs Fimbriae vs Pili of Bacteria)

What are cell surface appendages?

Cell surface appendages (aka filamentous appendages) are proteinaceous tubular or fibrous structures found on the surface of bacterial cells. They extend from the surface of the bacterial cell wall and can have many functions such as locomotion, attachment, adhesion and assisting in genetic exchange.

What are the three types of cell surface appendages of bacteria?

The THREE types of cell surface appendages are present on bacteria. The classification is based on the relative length of the appendages, composition and function. The three cell surface appendages of bacteria are

(1).  Flagella

(2).  Fimbriae

(3).  Pili

(1). Flagella

Bacterial Flagella definition: Bacterial flagella are long whip-like filamentous structures present in some bacteria. The most important function of flagella is to assist in locomotion. Flagella can also act as a sensory organ to detect temperature and the presence of certain chemicals. Even though the flagella are present in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, both are entirely different in their structure, formation and mechanism of propulsion.

What are the characteristics of bacterial flagella?

Ø  Flagella are long whip-like filamentous structures.

Ø  Flagella are many times longer and thicker than Fimbriae and Pili.

Ø  Approximate length of flagella varies from 15 to 20 µm.

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