Electron microscopic observations of prokaryotic surface appendages

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8 Scopus citations


Prokaryotic microbes possess a variety of appendages on their cell surfaces. The most commonly known surface appendages of bacteria include flagella, pili, curli, and spinae. Although archaea have archaella (archaeal flagella) and various types of pili that resemble those in bacteria, cannulae, and hami are unique to archaea. Typically involved in cell motility, flagella, the thickest appendages, are 20–26 nm and 10–14 nm wide in bacteria and archaea, respectively. Bacterial and archaeal pili are distinguished by their thin, short, hair-like structures. Curli appear as coiled and aggregative thin fibers, whereas spinae are tubular structures 50–70 nm in diameter in bacteria. Cannulae are characterized by ∼25 nm-wide tubules that enter periplasmic spaces and connect neighboring archaeal cells. Hami are 1–3 μm in length and similar to barbed grappling hooks for attachment to bacteria. Recent advances in specimen preparation methods and image processing techniques have made cryo-transmission electron microscopy an essential tool for in situ structural analysis of microbes and their extracellular structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-926
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Microbiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • appendages
  • archaea
  • bacteria
  • extracellular filaments


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