Obstruction of pilus retraction stimulates bacterial surface sensing.
ABSTRACT: It is critical for bacteria to recognize surface contact and initiate physiological changes required for surface-associated lifestyles. Ubiquitous microbial appendages called pili are involved in sensing surfaces and facilitating downstream behaviors, but the mechanism by which pili mediate surface sensing has been unclear. We visualized Caulobacter crescentus pili undergoing dynamic cycles of extension and retraction. Within seconds of surface contact, these cycles ceased, which coincided with synthesis of the adhesive holdfast required for attachment. Physically blocking pili imposed resistance to pilus retraction, which was sufficient to stimulate holdfast synthesis without surface contact. Thus, to sense surfaces, bacteria use the resistance on retracting, surface-bound pili that occurs upon surface contact.
Project description:A widespread class of prokaryotic motors powered by secretion motor adenosine triphosphatases (ATPases) drives the dynamic extension and retraction of extracellular fibers, such as type IV pili (T4P). Among these, the tight adherence (tad) pili are critical for surface sensing and biofilm formation. As for most other motors belonging to this class, how tad pili retract despite lacking a dedicated retraction motor ATPase has remained a mystery. Here, we find that a bifunctional pilus motor ATPase, CpaF, drives both activities through adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) hydrolysis. We show that mutations within CpaF result in a correlated reduction in the rates of extension and retraction that directly scales with decreased ATP hydrolysis and retraction force. Thus, a single motor ATPase drives the bidirectional processes of pilus fiber extension and retraction.
Project description:Prokaryotes have the ability to walk on surfaces using type IV pili (TFP), a motility mechanism known as twitching1,2. Molecular motors drive TFP extension and retraction, but whether and how these movements are coordinated is unknown3. Here, we reveal how the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa coordinates the motorized activity of TFP to power efficient surface motility. To do this, we dynamically visualized TFP extension, attachment and retraction events at high resolution in four dimensions using label-free interferometric scattering microscopy (iSCAT)4. By measuring TFP dynamics, we found that the retraction motor PilT was sufficient to generate tension and power motility in free solution, while its partner ATPase PilU may improve retraction only in high-friction environments. Using precise timing of successive attachment and retraction, we show that P. aeruginosa engages PilT motors very rapidly and almost only when TFP encounter the surface, suggesting contact sensing. Finally, measurements of TFP dwell times on surfaces show that tension reinforced the adhesion strength to the surface of individual pili, thereby increasing effective pulling time during retraction. The successive control of TFP extension, attachment, retraction and detachment suggests that sequential control of motility machinery is a conserved strategy for optimized locomotion across domains of life.
Project description:The attachment of bacteria to surfaces provides advantages such as increasing nutrient access and resistance to environmental stress. Attachment begins with a reversible phase, often mediated by surface structures such as flagella and pili, followed by a transition to irreversible attachment, typically mediated by polysaccharides. Here we show that the interplay between pili and flagellum rotation stimulates the rapid transition between reversible and polysaccharide-mediated irreversible attachment. We found that reversible attachment of Caulobacter crescentus cells is mediated by motile cells bearing pili and that their contact with a surface results in the rapid pili-dependent arrest of flagellum rotation and concurrent stimulation of polar holdfast adhesive polysaccharide. Similar stimulation of polar adhesin production by surface contact occurs in Asticcacaulis biprosthecum and Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Therefore, single bacterial cells respond to their initial contact with surfaces by triggering just-in-time adhesin production. This mechanism restricts stable attachment to intimate surface interactions, thereby maximizing surface attachment, discouraging non-productive self-adherence, and preventing curing of the adhesive.
Project description:To permanently attach to surfaces, Caulobacter crescentusproduces a strong adhesive, the holdfast. The timing of holdfast synthesis is developmentally regulated by cell cycle cues. When C. crescentusis grown in a complex medium, holdfast synthesis can also be stimulated by surface sensing, in which swarmer cells rapidly synthesize holdfast in direct response to surface contact. In contrast to growth in complex medium, here we show that when cells are grown in a defined medium, surface contact does not trigger holdfast synthesis. Moreover, we show that in a defined medium, flagellum synthesis and regulation of holdfast production are linked. In these conditions, mutants lacking a flagellum attach to surfaces over time more efficiently than either wild-type strains or strains harboring a paralyzed flagellum. Enhanced adhesion in mutants lacking flagellar components is due to premature holdfast synthesis during the cell cycle and is regulated by the holdfast synthesis inhibitor HfiA. hfiA transcription is reduced in flagellar mutants and this reduction is modulated by the diguanylate cyclase developmental regulator PleD. We also show that, in contrast to previous predictions, flagella are not necessarily required for C. crescentus surface sensing in the absence of flow, and that arrest of flagellar rotation does not stimulate holdfast synthesis. Rather, our data support a model in which flagellum assembly feeds back to control holdfast synthesis via HfiA expression in a c-di-GMP-dependent manner under defined nutrient conditions.
Project description:Bacteria have evolved a wide range of sensing systems to appropriately respond to environmental signals. Here we demonstrate that the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa detects contact with surfaces on short timescales using the mechanical activity of its type IV pili, a major surface adhesin. This signal transduction mechanism requires attachment of type IV pili to a solid surface, followed by pilus retraction and signal transduction through the Chp chemosensory system, a chemotaxis-like sensory system that regulates cAMP production and transcription of hundreds of genes, including key virulence factors. Like other chemotaxis pathways, pili-mediated surface sensing results in a transient response amplified by a positive feedback that increases type IV pili activity, thereby promoting long-term surface attachment that can stimulate additional virulence and biofilm-inducing pathways. The methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein-like chemosensor PilJ directly interacts with the major pilin subunit PilA. Our results thus support a mechanochemical model where a chemosensory system measures the mechanically induced conformational changes in stretched type IV pili. These findings demonstrate that P. aeruginosa not only uses type IV pili for surface-specific twitching motility, but also as a sensor regulating surface-induced gene expression and pathogenicity.
Project description:In the environment, most bacteria form surface-attached cell communities called biofilms. The attachment of single cells to surfaces involves an initial reversible stage typically mediated by surface structures such as flagella and pili, followed by a permanent adhesion stage usually mediated by polysaccharide adhesives. Here, we determine the absolute and relative timescales and frequencies of reversible and irreversible adhesion of single cells of the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus to a glass surface in a microfluidic device. We used fluorescence microscopy of C. crescentus expressing green fluorescent protein to track the swimming behavior of individual cells prior to adhesion, monitor the cell at the surface, and determine whether the cell reversibly or irreversibly adhered to the surface. A fluorescently labeled lectin that binds specifically to polar polysaccharides, termed holdfast, discriminated irreversible adhesion events from reversible adhesion events where no holdfast formed. In wild-type cells, the holdfast production time for irreversible adhesion events initiated by surface contact (23 s) was 30-times faster than the holdfast production time that occurs through developmental regulation (13 min). Irreversible adhesion events in wild-type cells (3.3 events/min) are 15-times more frequent than in pilus-minus mutant cells (0.2 events/min), indicating the pili are critical structures in the transition from reversible to irreversible surface-stimulated adhesion. In reversible adhesion events, the dwell time of cells at the surface before departing was the same for wild-type cells (12 s) and pilus-minus mutant cells (13 s), suggesting the pili do not play a significant role in reversible adhesion. Moreover, reversible adhesion events in wild-type cells (6.8 events/min) occur twice as frequently as irreversible adhesion events (3.3 events/min), demonstrating that most cells contact the surface multiple times before transitioning from reversible to irreversible adhesion.
Project description:Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is an important human pathogen that causes acute infantile diarrhea. The type IV bundle-forming pili (BFP) of typical EPEC strains are dynamic fibrillar organelles that can extend out and retract into the bacterium. The bfpF gene encodes for BfpF, a protein that promotes pili retraction. The BFP are involved in bacterial autoaggregation and in mediating the initial adherence of the bacterium with its host cell. Importantly, BFP retraction is implicated in virulence in experimental human infection. How pili retraction contributes to EPEC pathogenesis at the cellular level remains largely obscure, however. In this study, an effort has been made to address this question using engineered EPEC strains with induced BFP retraction capacity. We show that the retraction is important for tight-junction disruption and, to a lesser extent, actin-rich pedestal formation by promoting efficient translocation of bacterial protein effectors into the host cells. A model is proposed whereby BFP retraction permits closer apposition between the bacterial and the host cell surfaces, thus enabling timely and effective introduction of bacterial effectors into the host cell via the type III secretion apparatus. Our studies hence suggest novel insights into the involvement of pili retraction in EPEC pathogenesis.
Project description:Understanding how bacteria colonize surfaces and regulate cell-cycle progression in response to cellular adhesion is of fundamental importance. Here, we use transposon sequencing in conjunction with fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) microscopy to uncover the molecular mechanism for how surface sensing drives cell-cycle initiation in Caulobacter crescentus We identify the type IV pilin protein PilA as the primary signaling input that couples surface contact to cell-cycle initiation via the second messenger cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP). Upon retraction of pili filaments, the monomeric pilin reservoir in the inner membrane is sensed by the 17-amino acid transmembrane helix of PilA to activate the PleC-PleD two-component signaling system, increase cellular c-di-GMP levels, and signal the onset of the cell cycle. We termed the PilA signaling sequence CIP for "cell-cycle initiating pilin" peptide. Addition of the chemically synthesized CIP peptide initiates cell-cycle progression and simultaneously inhibits surface attachment. The broad conservation of the type IV pili and their importance in pathogens for host colonization suggests that CIP peptide mimetics offer strategies to inhibit surface sensing, prevent biofilm formation and control persistent infections.
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:Natural transformation is a broadly conserved mechanism of horizontal gene transfer in bacterial species that can shape evolution and foster the spread of antibiotic resistance determinants, promote antigenic variation and lead to the acquisition of novel virulence factors. Surface appendages called competence pili promote DNA uptake during the first step of natural transformation 1 ; however, their mechanism of action has remained unclear owing to an absence of methods to visualize these structures in live cells. Here, using the model naturally transformable species Vibrio cholerae and a pilus-labelling method, we define the mechanism for type IV competence pilus-mediated DNA uptake during natural transformation. First, we show that type IV competence pili bind to extracellular double-stranded DNA via their tip and demonstrate that this binding is critical for DNA uptake. Next, we show that type IV competence pili are dynamic structures and that pilus retraction brings tip-bound DNA to the cell surface. Finally, we show that pilus retraction is spatiotemporally coupled to DNA internalization and that sterically obstructing pilus retraction prevents DNA uptake. Together, these results indicate that type IV competence pili directly bind to DNA via their tip and mediate DNA internalization through retraction during this conserved mechanism of horizontal gene transfer.