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Autolytic enzymes were found to be required for flagellar morphogenesis in Bacillus subtilis 168 and Bacillus licheniformis 6346. Two previously characterized, poorly lytic, chain-forming mutants of B. subtilis 168, strains FJ3 (temperature conditional) and FJ6, each 90 to 95% deficient in the production of N-acetylmuramyl-L-alanine amidase and endo-beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase, were observed to be nonmotile at 35 degrees C in a variety of liquid and semisolid meida. In contrast, cells of the isogenic wild-type strain were motile and fully separated. Electron microscopy revealed the complete absence of flagella on the mutant cells. Similar observations were made with another poorly lytic strain of B. subtilis 168 (Nil5) and with two poorly lytic, phosphoglucomutase-deficient mutants of B. licheniformis 6346 (MH-3, MH-5). In minimal media lacking galactose (restrictive conditions), the B. licheniformis mutants failed to form flagella, or had serious abnormalities in flagellar morphogenesis and motility. Under permissive conditions, mutants FJ3 (grown at 17 degrees C) and MH-5 (grown with addend galactose) showed increased autolytic activities, grew in the dechained form, and regained their capacities to synthesize functional flagella. Examination of several classes of spontaneous revertants derived from the various mutant strains further demonstrated a close relationship between autolysin acttivity and flagellation in the two Bacillus spp.