Structural and evolutionary analyses show unique stabilization strategies in the type IV pili of Clostridium difficile.
ABSTRACT: Type IV pili are produced by many pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria and are important for processes as diverse as twitching motility, biofilm formation, cellular adhesion, and horizontal gene transfer. However, many Gram-positive species, including Clostridium difficile, also produce type IV pili. Here, we identify the major subunit of the type IV pili of C. difficile, PilA1, and describe multiple 3D structures of PilA1, demonstrating the diversity found in three strains of C. difficile. We also model the incorporation of both PilA1 and a minor pilin, PilJ, into the pilus fiber. Although PilA1 contains no cysteine residues, and therefore cannot form the disulfide bonds found in all Gram-negative type IV pilins, it adopts unique strategies to achieve a typical pilin fold. The structures of PilA1 and PilJ exhibit similarities with the type IVb pilins from Gram-negative bacteria that suggest that the type IV pili of C. difficile are involved in microcolony formation.
Project description:Type IV pili are produced by many pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria and are important for processes as diverse as twitching motility, cellular adhesion, and colonization. Recently, there has been an increased appreciation of the ability of Gram-positive species, including Clostridium difficile, to produce Type IV pili. Here we report the first three-dimensional structure of a Gram-positive Type IV pilin, PilJ, demonstrate its incorporation into Type IV pili, and offer insights into how the Type IV pili of C. difficile may assemble and function. PilJ has several unique structural features, including a dual-pilin fold and the incorporation of a structural zinc ion. We show that PilJ is incorporated into Type IV pili in C. difficile and present a model in which the incorporation of PilJ into pili exposes the C-terminal domain of PilJ to create a novel interaction surface.
Project description:The Gram-positive anaerobe Clostridium difficile is the major cause of nosocomial diarrhea; manifestations of infection include diarrhea, pseudomembranous colitis, and death. Genes for type IV pili, a bacterial nanofiber often involved in colonization and until relatively recently described only in Gram-negatives, are present in all members of the Clostridiales. We hypothesized that any pilins encoded in the C. difficile genome would be immunogenic, as has been shown with pilins from Gram-negative organisms. We describe nine pilin or pilin-like protein genes, for which we introduce a coherent nomenclature, in the C. difficile R20291 genome. The nine predicted pilin or pilin-like proteins have relatively conserved N-terminal hydrophobic regions, but diverge at their C-termini. Analysis of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitutions revealed evidence of diversifying selective pressure in two pilin genes. Six of the nine identified proteins were purified and used to immunize mice. Immunization of mice with each individual protein generated antibody responses that varied in titer and cross-reactivity, a notable result given the low amino acid sequence identity among the pilins. Further studies in other small mammals mirrored our results in mice. Our results illuminate components of the C. difficile type IV pilus and help identify targets for an anti-C. difficile vaccine.
Project description:In Gram-negative bacteria, type IV pili (TFP) have long been known to play important roles in such diverse biological phenomena as surface adhesion, motility, and DNA transfer, with significant consequences for pathogenicity. More recently it became apparent that Gram-positive bacteria also express type IV pili; however, little is known about the diversity and abundance of these structures in Gram-positives. Computational tools for automated identification of type IV pilins are not currently available.To assess TFP diversity in Gram-positive bacteria and facilitate pilin identification, we compiled a comprehensive list of putative Gram-positive pilins encoded by operons containing highly conserved pilus biosynthetic genes (pilB, pilC). A surprisingly large number of species were found to contain multiple TFP operons (pil, com and/or tad). The N-terminal sequences of predicted pilins were exploited to develop PilFind, a rule-based algorithm for genome-wide identification of otherwise poorly conserved type IV pilins in any species, regardless of their association with TFP biosynthetic operons (http://signalfind.org). Using PilFind to scan 53 Gram-positive genomes (encoding >187,000 proteins), we identified 286 candidate pilins, including 214 in operons containing TFP biosynthetic genes (TBG+ operons). Although trained on Gram-positive pilins, PilFind identified 55 of 58 manually curated Gram-negative pilins in TBG+ operons, as well as 53 additional pilin candidates in operons lacking biosynthetic genes in ten species (>38,000 proteins), including 27 of 29 experimentally verified pilins. False positive rates appear to be low, as PilFind predicted only four pilin candidates in eleven bacterial species (>13,000 proteins) lacking TFP biosynthetic genes.We have shown that Gram-positive bacteria contain a highly diverse set of type IV pili. PilFind can be an invaluable tool to study bacterial cellular processes known to involve type IV pilus-like structures. Its use in combination with other currently available computational tools should improve the accuracy of predicting the subcellular localization of bacterial proteins.
Project description:Clostridium perfringens is an anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium that causes a range of diseases in humans, including lethal gas gangrene. We have recently shown that strains of C. perfringens move across the surface of agar plates by a unique type IV pilus (TFP)-mediated social motility that had not been previously described. Based on sequence homology to pilins in Gram-negative bacteria, C. perfringens appears to have two pilin subunits, PilA1 and PilA2. Structural prediction analysis indicated PilA1 is similar to the pseudopilin found in Klebsiella oxytoca, while PilA2 is more similar to true pilins found in the Gram-negative pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Strains of N. gonorrhoeae that were genetically deficient in the native pilin, PilE, but supplemented with inducible expression of PilA1 and PilA2 of C. perfringens were constructed. Genetic competence, wild-type twitching motility, and attachment to human urogenital epithelial cells were not restored by expression of either pilin. However, attachment to mouse and rat myoblast (muscle) cell lines was observed with the N. gonorrhoeae strain expressing PilA2. Significantly, wild-type C. perfringens cells adhered to mouse myoblasts under anaerobic conditions, and adherence was 10-fold lower in a pilT mutant that lacked functional TFP. These findings implicate C. perfringens TFP in the ability of C. perfringens to adhere to and move along muscle fibers in vivo, which may provide a therapeutic approach to limiting this rapidly spreading and highly lethal infection.
Project description:Type IV pili are extracellular polymers of the major pilin subunit. These subunits are held together in the pilus filament by hydrophobic interactions among their N-terminal ?-helices, which also anchor the pilin subunits in the inner membrane prior to pilus assembly. Type IV pilus assembly involves a conserved group of proteins that span the envelope of Gram-negative bacteria. Among these is a set of minor pilins, so named because they share their hydrophobic N-terminal polymerization/membrane anchor segment with the major pilins but are much less abundant. Minor pilins influence pilus assembly and retraction, but their precise functions are not well defined. The Type IV pilus systems of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae are among the simplest of Type IV pilus systems and possess only a single minor pilin. Here we show that the enterotoxigenic E. coli minor pilins CofB and LngB are required for assembly of their respective Type IV pili, CFA/III and Longus. Low levels of the minor pilins are optimal for pilus assembly, and CofB can be detected in the pilus fraction. We solved the 2.0 Å crystal structure of N-terminally truncated CofB, revealing a pilin-like protein with an extended C-terminal region composed of two discrete domains connected by flexible linkers. The C-terminal region is required for CofB to initiate pilus assembly. We propose a model for CofB-initiated pilus assembly with implications for understanding filament growth in more complex Type IV pilus systems as well as the related Type II secretion system.
Project description:N-Glycosylation is a post-translational modification common to all three domains of life. In many archaea, the oligosacharyltransferase (AglB)-dependent N-glycosylation of flagellins is required for flagella assembly. However, whether N-glycosylation is required for the assembly and/or function of the structurally related archaeal type IV pili is unknown. Here, we show that of six Haloferax volcanii adhesion pilins, PilA1 and PilA2, the most abundant pilins in pili of wild-type and ?aglB strains, are modified under planktonic conditions in an AglB-dependent manner by the same pentasaccharide detected on H. volcanii flagellins. However, unlike wild-type cells, which have surfaces decorated with discrete pili and form a dispersed layer of cells on a plastic surface, ?aglB cells have thick pili bundles and form microcolonies. Moreover, expressing PilA1, PilA2, or PilA6 in ?pilA[1-6]?aglB stimulates microcolony formation compared with their expression in ?pilA[1-6]. Conversely, expressing PilA3 or PilA4 in ?pilA[1-6] cells results in strong surface adhesion, but not microcolony formation, and neither pilin stimulates surface adhesion in ?pilA[1-6]?aglB cells. Although PilA4 assembles into pili in the ?pilA[1-6]?aglB cells, these pili are, unlike wild-type pili, curled, perhaps rendering them non-functional. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a differential effect of glycosylation on pilus assembly and function of paralogous pilins. The growth of wild-type cells in low salt media, a condition that decreases AglB glycosylation, also stimulates microcolony formation and inhibits motility, supporting our hypothesis that N-glycosylation plays an important role in regulating the transition between planktonic to sessile cell states as a response to stress.
Project description:The human pathogen Eikenella corrodens synthesizes type IV pili and exhibits a phase variation involving the irreversible transition from piliated to nonpiliated variants. On solid medium, piliated variants form small (S-phase), corroding colonies whereas nonpiliated variants form large (L-phase), noncorroding colonies. We are studying the molecular basis of this phase variation in the clinical isolate E. corrodens VA1. A genomic fragment encoding the major type IV pilin was cloned from the S-phase variant of strain VA1. Sequence analysis of the fragment revealed four tandemly arranged potential open reading frames (ORFs), designated pilA1, pilA2, pilB, and hagA. Both pilA1 and pilA2 predict a type IV pilin. The protein predicted by pilB shares sequence identity with the Dichelobacter nodosus FimB fimbrial assembly protein. The protein predicted by hagA resembles a hemagglutinin. The region containing these four ORFs was designated the pilA locus. DNA hybridization and sequence analysis showed that the pilA locus of an L-phase variant of strain VA1 was identical to that of the S-phase variant. An abundant pilA1 transcript initiating upstream of pilA1 and terminating at a predicted hairpin structure between pilA1 and pilA2 was detected by several assays, as was a less abundant read-through transcript encompassing pilA1, pilA2, and pilB. Transcription from the pilA locus was nearly indistinguishable between S- and L-phase variants. Electron microscopy and immunochemical analysis showed that S-phase variants synthesize, export, and assemble pilin into pili. In contrast, L-phase variants synthesize pilin but do not export and assemble it into pili. These data suggest that a posttranslational event, possibly involving an alteration in pilin export and assembly, is responsible for phase variation in E. corrodens.
Project description:Type IV pili (Tfp) are functionally versatile filaments, widespread in prokaryotes, that belong to a large class of filamentous nanomachines known as type IV filaments (Tff). Although Tfp have been extensively studied in several Gram-negative pathogens where they function as key virulence factors, many aspects of their biology remain poorly understood. Here, we performed a global biochemical and structural analysis of Tfp in a recently emerged Gram-positive model, Streptococcus sanguinis In particular, we focused on the five pilins and pilin-like proteins involved in Tfp biology in S. sanguinis We found that the two major pilins, PilE1 and PilE2, (i) follow widely conserved principles for processing by the prepilin peptidase PilD and for assembly into filaments; (ii) display only one of the post-translational modifications frequently found in pilins, i.e. a methylated N terminus; (iii) are found in the same heteropolymeric filaments; and (iv) are not functionally equivalent. The 3D structure of PilE1, solved by NMR, revealed a classical pilin-fold with a highly unusual flexible C terminus. Intriguingly, PilE1 more closely resembles pseudopilins forming shorter Tff than bona fide Tfp-forming major pilins, underlining the evolutionary relatedness among different Tff. Finally, we show that S. sanguinis Tfp contain a low abundance of three additional proteins processed by PilD, the minor pilins PilA, PilB, and PilC. These findings provide the first global biochemical and structural picture of a Gram-positive Tfp and have fundamental implications for our understanding of a widespread class of filamentous nanomachines.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Type IV pili are widely expressed among Gram-negative bacteria, where they are involved in biofilm formation, serve in the transfer of DNA, motility and in the bacterial attachment to various surfaces. Type IV pili in Shewanella oneidensis are also supposed to play an important role in extracellular electron transfer by the attachment to sediments containing electron acceptors and potentially forming conductive nanowires. RESULTS:The potential nanowire type IV pilin PilBac1 from S. oneidensis was characterized by a combination of complementary structural methods and the atomic structure was determined at a resolution of 1.67 Å by X-ray crystallography. PilBac1 consists of one long N-terminal ?-helix packed against four antiparallel ?-strands, thus revealing the core fold of type IV pilins. In the crystal, PilBac1 forms a parallel dimer with a sodium ion bound to one of the monomers. Interestingly, our PilBac1 crystal structure reveals two unusual features compared to other type IVa pilins: an unusual position of the disulfide bridge and a straight ?-helical section, which usually exhibits a pronounced kink. This straight helix leads to a distinct packing in a filament model of PilBac1 based on an EM model of a Neisseria pilus. CONCLUSIONS:In this study we have described the first structure of a pilin from Shewanella oneidensis. The structure possesses features of the common type IV pilin core, but also exhibits significant variations in the ?-helical part and the D-region.
Project description:Increasing morbidity and mortality from Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) present an enormous challenge to healthcare systems. Clostridium difficile express type IV pili (T4P), but their function remains unclear. Many chronic and recurrent bacterial infections result from biofilms, surface-associated bacterial communities embedded in an extracellular matrix. CDI may be biofilm mediated; T4P are important for biofilm formation in a number of organisms. We evaluate the role of T4P in C. difficile biofilm formation using RNA sequencing, mutagenesis and complementation of the gene encoding the major pilin pilA1, and microscopy. RNA sequencing demonstrates that, in comparison to other growth phenotypes, C. difficile growing in a biofilm has a distinct RNA expression profile, with significant differences in T4P gene expression. Microscopy of T4P-expressing and T4P-deficient strains suggests that T4P play an important role in early biofilm formation. A non-piliated pilA1 mutant forms an initial biofilm of significantly reduced mass and thickness in comparison to the wild type. Complementation of the pilA1 mutant strain leads to formation of a biofilm which resembles the wild-type biofilm. These findings suggest that T4P play an important role in early biofilm formation. Novel strategies for confronting biofilm infections are emerging; our data suggest that similar strategies should be investigated in CDI.