Modification of type IV pilus-associated epithelial cell adherence and multicellular behavior by the PilU protein of Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
ABSTRACT: Expression of type IV pili (Tfp) correlates with the ability of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to colonize the human host, as well as with adherence to human epithelial tissue, twitching motility, competence for natural transformation, and autoagglutination. N. gonorrhoeae PilF (required for Tfp biogenesis) and PilT (required for twitching motility and transformation) share significant identities with members of a family of putative ATPases involved in membrane trafficking of macromolecules. An open reading frame downstream of the pilT locus encoding a 408-amino-acid protein with 33% identity with the gonococcal PilT protein and 45% identity with the PilU protein in Pseudomonas aeruginosa was characterized, and the corresponding gene was designated pilU. Unlike N. gonorrhoeae pilT mutants, pilU mutants express twitching motility and are competent for DNA transformation. However, loss-of-function mutations in pilU increased bacterial adherence to ME-180 human epithelial cells eightfold and disrupted in vitro Tfp-associated autoagglutination. Comparative alignment of N. gonorrhoeae PilU with other members of the TrbB-like family of traffic ATPases revealed a conserved carboxy-terminal domain unique to family members which are not essential for Tfp biogenesis but which specifically modify Tfp-associated phenotypes. Studies of the pilT-pilU locus by using Northern blotting, transcriptional fusions, and reverse transcription-PCR showed that the two genes encoding closely related proteins with dissimilar effects on Tfp phenotypes are transcribed from a single promoter.
Project description:The ubiquitous species Pseudomonas stutzeri has type IV pili, and these are essential for the natural transformation of the cells. An absolute transformation-deficient mutant obtained after transposon mutagenesis had an insertion in a gene which was termed pilT. The deduced amino acid sequence has identity with PilT of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (94%), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (67%), and other gram-negative species and it contains a nucleotide-binding motif. The mutant was hyperpiliated but defective for further pilus-associated properties, such as twitching motility and plating of pilus-specific phage PO4. [(3)H]thymidine-labeled DNA was bound by the mutant but not taken up. Downstream of pilT a gene, termed pilU, coding for a putative protein with 88% amino acid identity with PilU of P. aeruginosa was identified. Insertional inactivation did not affect piliation, twitching motility, or PO4 infection but reduced transformation to about 10%. The defect was fully complemented by PilU of nontransformable P. aeruginosa. When the pilAI gene (coding for the type IV pilus prepilin) was manipulated to code for a protein in which the six C-terminal amino acids were replaced by six histidine residues and then expressed from a plasmid, it gave a nonpiliated and twitching motility-defective phenotype in pilAI::Gm(r) cells but allowed transformability. Moreover, the mutant allele suppressed the absolute transformation deficiency caused by the pilT mutation. Considering the hypothesized role of pilT(+) in pilus retraction and the presumed requirement of retraction for DNA uptake, it is proposed that the pilT-independent transformation is promoted by PilA mutant protein either as single molecules or as minimal pilin assembly structures in the periplasm which may resemble depolymerized pili and that these cause the outer membrane pores to open for DNA entry.
Project description:Neisseria meningitidis is a major cause of sepsis and bacterial meningitis worldwide. This bacterium expresses type IV pili (Tfp), which mediate important virulence traits such as the formation of bacterial aggregates, host cell adhesion, twitching motility, and DNA uptake. The meningococcal PilT protein is a hexameric ATPase that mediates pilus retraction. The PilU protein is produced from the pilT-pilU operon and shares a high degree of homology with PilT. The function of PilT in Tfp biology has been studied extensively, whereas the role of PilU remains poorly understood. Here we show that pilU mutants have delayed microcolony formation on host epithelial cells compared to the wild type, indicating that bacterium-bacterium interactions are affected. In normal human serum, the pilU mutant survived at a higher rate than that for wild-type bacteria. However, in a murine model of disease, mice infected with the pilT mutant demonstrated significantly reduced bacterial blood counts and survived at a higher rate than that for mice infected with the wild type. Infection of mice with the pilU mutant resulted in a trend of lower bacteremia, and still a significant increase in survival, than that of the wild type. In conclusion, these data suggest that PilU promotes timely microcolony formation and that both PilU and PilT are required for full bacterial virulence.
Project description:Neisseria gonorrhoeae is the bacterium that causes gonorrhea, a major sexually transmitted disease and a significant cofactor for human immunodeficiency virus transmission. The retactile N. gonorrhoeae type IV pilus (Tfp) mediates twitching motility and attachment. Using live-cell microscopy, we reveal for the first time the dynamics of twitching motility by N. gonorrhoeae in its natural environment, human epithelial cells. Bacteria aggregate into microcolonies on the cell surface and induce a massive remodeling of the microvillus architecture. Surprisingly, the microcolonies are motile, and they fuse to form progressively larger structures that undergo rapid reorganization, suggesting that bacteria communicate with each other during infection. As reported, actin plaques form beneath microcolonies. Here, we show that cortical plaques comigrate with motile microcolonies. These activities are dependent on pilT, the Tfp retraction locus. Cultures infected with a pilT mutant have significantly higher numbers of apoptotic cells than cultures infected with the wild-type strain. Inducing pilT expression with isopropyl-beta-D-thiogalactopyranoside partially rescues cells from infection-induced apoptosis, demonstrating that Tfp retraction is intrinsically cytoprotective for the host. Tfp-mediated attachment is therefore a continuum of microcolony motility and force stimulation of host cell signaling, leading to a cytoprotective effect.
Project description:Type IV fimbriae are essential virulence factors of Dichelobacter nodosus, the principal causative agent of ovine foot rot. The fimA fimbrial subunit gene is required for virulence, but fimA mutants exhibit several phenotypic changes and it is not certain if the effects on virulence result from the loss of type IV fimbria-mediated twitching motility, cell adherence, or reduced protease secretion. We showed that mutation of either the pilT or pilU gene eliminated the ability to carry out twitching motility. However, the pilT mutants displayed decreased adhesion to epithelial cells and reduced protease secretion, whereas the pilU mutants had wild-type levels of extracellular protease secretion and adherence. These data provided evidence that PilT is required for the type IV fimbria-dependent protease secretion pathway in D. nodosus. It was postulated that sufficient fimbrial retraction must occur in the pilU mutants to allow protease secretion, but not twitching motility, to take place. Although no cell movement was detected in a pilU mutant of D. nodosus, aberrant motion was detected in an equivalent mutant of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These observations explain how in D. nodosus protease secretion can occur in a pilU mutant but not in a pilT mutant. In addition, virulence studies with sheep showed that both the pilT and pilU mutants were avirulent, providing evidence that mutation of the type IV fimbrial system affects virulence by eliminating twitching motility, not by altering cell adherence or protease secretion.
Project description:Type IV pili are dynamic cell surface appendages found throughout the bacteria. The ability of these structures to undergo repetitive cycles of extension and retraction underpins their crucial roles in adhesion, motility and natural competence for transformation. In the best-studied systems a dedicated retraction ATPase PilT powers pilus retraction. Curiously, a second presumed retraction ATPase PilU is often encoded immediately downstream of pilT. However, despite the presence of two potential retraction ATPases, pilT deletions lead to a total loss of pilus function, raising the question of why PilU fails to take over. Here, using the DNA-uptake pilus and mannose-sensitive haemagglutinin (MSHA) pilus of Vibrio cholerae as model systems, we show that inactivated PilT variants, defective for either ATP-binding or hydrolysis, have unexpected intermediate phenotypes that are PilU-dependent. In addition to demonstrating that PilU can function as a bona fide retraction ATPase, we go on to make the surprising discovery that PilU functions exclusively in a PilT-dependent manner and identify a naturally occurring pandemic V. cholerae PilT variant that renders PilU essential for pilus function. Finally, we show that Pseudomonas aeruginosa PilU also functions as a PilT-dependent retraction ATPase, providing evidence that the functional coupling between PilT and PilU could be a widespread mechanism for optimal pilus retraction.
Project description:Here we present an examination of type IV pilus genes associated with competence and twitching in the bacterium Acinetobacter baylyi (strain ADP1, BD413). We used bioinformatics to identify potential competence and twitching genes and their operons. We measured the competence and twitching phenotypes of the bioinformatically-identified genes. These results demonstrate that competence and twitching in A. baylyi both rely upon a core of the same type IV pilus proteins. The core includes the inner membrane assembly platform (PilC), a periplasmic assemblage connecting the inner membrane assembly platform to the secretin (ComM), a secretin (ComQ) and its associated pilotin (PilF) that assists with secretin assembly and localization, both cytoplasmic pilus retraction ATPases (PilU, PilT), and pilins (ComP, ComB, PilX). Proteins not needed for both competence and twitching are instead found to specialize in either of the two traits. The pilins are varied in their specialization with some required for either competence (FimT) and others for twitching (ComE). The protein that transports DNA across the inner membrane (ComA) specializes in competence, while signal transduction proteins (PilG, PilS, and PilR) specialize in twitching. Taken together our results suggest that the function of accessory proteins should not be based on homology alone. In addition the results suggest that in A. baylyi the mechanisms of natural transformation and twitching are mediated by the same set of core Type IV pilus proteins with distinct specialized proteins required for each phenotype. Finally, since competence requires multiple pilins as well as both pilus retraction motors PilU and PilT, this suggests that A. baylyi employs a pilus in natural transformation.
Project description:Type IV pili (Tfp) of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the Gram-negative etiologic agent of gonorrhea, facilitate colonization of the human host. Tfp are assumed to play a key role in the initial adherence to human epithelial cells by virtue of the associated adhesin protein PilC. To examine the structural and functional basis for adherence in more detail, we identified potential genes encoding polypeptides sharing structural similarities to PilE (the Tfp subunit) within the N. gonorrhoeae genome sequence database. We show here that a fiber subunit-like protein, termed PilV, is essential to organelle-associated adherence but dispensable for Tfp biogenesis and other pilus-related phenotypes, including autoagglutination, competence for natural transformation, and twitching motility. The adherence defect in pilV mutants cannot be attributed to reduced levels of piliation, defects in fiber anchoring to the bacterial cell surface, or to unstable pilus expression related to organelle retraction. PilV is expressed at low levels relative to PilE and copurifies with Tfp fibers in a PilC-dependent fashion. Purified Tfp from pilV mutants contain PilC adhesin at reduced levels. Taken together, these data support a model in which PilV functions in adherence by promoting the functional display of PilC in the context of the pilus fiber.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Acinetobacter baumannii is a Gram-negative, opportunistic pathogen. Recently, multiple A. baumannii genomes have been sequenced; these data have led to the identification of many genes predicted to encode proteins required for the biogenesis of type IV pili (TFP). However, there is no experimental evidence demonstrating that A. baumannii strains actually produce functional TFP. Here, we demonstrated that A. baumannii strain M2 is naturally transformable and capable of twitching motility, two classical TFP-associated phenotypes. Strains were constructed with mutations in pilA, pilD, and pilT, genes whose products have been well characterized in other systems. These mutants were no longer naturally transformable and did not exhibit twitching motility. These TFP-associated phenotypes were restored when these mutations were complemented. More PilA was detected on the surface of the pilT mutant than the parental strain, and TFP were visualized on the pilT mutant by transmission electron microscopy. Thus, A. baumannii produces functional TFP and utilizes TFP for both natural transformation and twitching motility. Several investigators have hypothesized that TFP might be responsible, in part, for the flagellum-independent surface-associated motility exhibited by many A. baumannii clinical isolates. We demonstrated that surface-associated motility was not dependent on the products of the pilA, pilD, and pilT genes and, by correlation, TFP. The identification of functional TFP in A. baumannii lays the foundation for future work determining the role of TFP in models of virulence that partially recapitulate human disease. IMPORTANCE:Several investigators have documented the presence of genes predicted to encode proteins required for the biogenesis of TFP in many A. baumannii genomes. Furthermore, some have speculated that TFP may play a role in the unique surface-associated motility phenotype exhibited by many A. baumannii clinical isolates, yet there has been no experimental evidence to prove this. Unfortunately, progress in understanding the biology and virulence of A. baumannii has been slowed by the difficulty of constructing and complementing mutations in this species. Strain M2, a recently characterized clinical isolate, is amenable to genetic manipulation. We have established a reproducible system for the generation of marked and/or unmarked mutations using a modified recombineering strategy as well as a genetic complementation system utilizing a modified mini-Tn7 element in strain M2. Using this strategy, we demonstrated that strain M2 produces TFP and that TFP are not required for surface-associated motility exhibited by strain M2.
Project description:Post-translational acetylation is a common protein modification in bacteria. It was recently reported that Neisseria gonorrhoeae acetylates the Type IV pilus retraction motor, PilT. Here, we show recombinant PilT can be acetylated in vitro and acetylation does not affect PilT ultrastructure. To investigate the function of PilT acetylation, we mutated an acetylated lysine, K117, to mimic its acetylated or unacetylated forms. These mutations were not tolerated by wild-type N. gonorrhoeae, but they were tolerated by N. gonorrhoeae carrying an inducible pilE when grown without inducer. We identified additional mutations in pilT and pilU that suppress the lethality of K117 mutations. To investigate the link between PilE and PilT acetylation, we found the lack of PilE decreases PilT acetylation levels and increases the amount of PilT associated with the inner membrane. Finally, we found no difference between wild-type and mutant cells in transformation efficiency, suggesting neither mutation inhibits Type IV pilus retraction. Mutant cells, however, form microcolonies morphologically distinct from wt cells. We conclude that interfering with the acetylation status of PilTK117 greatly reduces N. gonorrhoeae viability, and mutations in pilT, pilU and pilE can overcome this lethality. We discuss the implications of these findings in the context of Type IV pilus retraction regulation.
Project description:Type IV pili of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the Gram-negative etiologic agent of gonorrhea, facilitate colonization of the human host. Gonococcal PilT, a protein belonging to a large family of molecules sharing a highly conserved nucleotide binding domain motif, has been shown to be dispensable for organelle biogenesis but essential for twitching motility and competence for genetic transformation. Here, we show that the defect in pilus biogenesis resulting from mutations in the pilC gene, encoding a putative pilus-associated adhesin for human tissue, can be suppressed by the absence of functional PilT. These data conclusively demonstrate that PilT influences the Type IV pilus biogenesis pathway and strongly suggest that organelle expression is a dynamic process. In addition, these findings imply that PilT antagonizes the process of organelle biogenesis and provide the basis for a model for how the counteractive roles of PilT and PilC might relate mechanistically to the phenomenon of twitching motility.