Pseudomonas aeruginosa type IV minor pilins and PilY1 regulate virulence by modulating FimS-AlgR activity.
ABSTRACT: Type IV pili are expressed by a wide range of prokaryotes, including the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These flexible fibres mediate twitching motility, biofilm maturation, surface adhesion, and virulence. The pilus is composed mainly of major pilin subunits while the low abundance minor pilins FimU-PilVWXE and the putative adhesin PilY1 prime pilus assembly and are proposed to form the pilus tip. The minor pilins and PilY1 are encoded in an operon that is positively regulated by the FimS-AlgR two-component system. Independent of pilus assembly, PilY1 was proposed to be a mechanosensory component that-in conjunction with minor pilins-triggers up-regulation of acute virulence phenotypes upon surface attachment. Here, we investigated the link between the minor pilins/PilY1 and virulence. pilW, pilX, and pilY1 mutants had reduced virulence towards Caenorhabditis elegans relative to wild type or a major pilin mutant, implying a role in pathogenicity that is independent of pilus assembly. We hypothesized that loss of specific minor pilins relieves feedback inhibition on FimS-AlgR, increasing transcription of the AlgR regulon and delaying C. elegans killing. Reporter assays confirmed that FimS-AlgR were required for increased expression of the minor pilin operon upon loss of select minor pilins. Overexpression of AlgR or its hyperactivation via a phosphomimetic mutation reduced virulence, and the virulence defects of pilW, pilX, and pilY1 mutants required FimS-AlgR expression and activation. We propose that PilY1 and the minor pilins inhibit their own expression, and that loss of these proteins leads to FimS-mediated activation of AlgR that suppresses expression of acute-phase virulence factors and delays killing. This mechanism could contribute to adaptation of P. aeruginosa in chronic lung infections, as mutations in the minor pilin operon result in the loss of piliation and increased expression of AlgR-dependent virulence factors-such as alginate-that are characteristic of such infections.
Project description:Pseudomonas aeruginosa exhibits distinct surface-associated behaviors, including biofilm formation, flagellum-mediated swarming motility, and type IV pilus-driven twitching. Here, we report a role for the minor pilins, PilW and PilX, components of the type IV pilus assembly machinery, in the repression of swarming motility. Mutating either the pilW or pilX gene alleviates the inhibition of swarming motility observed for strains with elevated levels of the intracellular signaling molecule cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) due to loss of BifA, a c-di-GMP-degrading phosphodiesterase. Blocking PilD peptidase-mediated processing of PilW and PilX renders the unprocessed proteins defective for pilus assembly but still functional in c-di-GMP-mediated swarming repression, indicating our ability to separate these functions. Strains with mutations in pilW or pilX also fail to exhibit the increase in c-di-GMP levels observed when wild-type (WT) or bifA mutant cells are grown on a surface. We also provide data showing that c-di-GMP levels are increased upon PilY1 overexpression in surface-grown cells and that this c-di-GMP increase does not occur in the absence of the SadC diguanylate cyclase. Increased levels of endogenous PilY1, PilX, and PilA are observed when cells are grown on a surface compared to liquid growth, linking surface growth and enhanced signaling via SadC. Our data support a model wherein PilW, PilX, and PilY1, in addition to their role(s) in type IV pilus biogenesis, function to repress swarming via modulation of intracellular c-di-GMP levels. By doing so, these pilus assembly proteins contribute to P. aeruginosa's ability to coordinately regulate biofilm formation with its two surface motility systems.
Project description:Type IV pili (T4P) contain hundreds of major subunits, but minor subunits are also required for assembly and function. Here we show that Pseudomonas aeruginosa minor pilins prime pilus assembly and traffic the pilus-associated adhesin and anti-retraction protein, PilY1, to the cell surface. PilV, PilW, and PilX require PilY1 for inclusion in surface pili and vice versa, suggestive of complex formation. PilE requires PilVWXY1 for inclusion, suggesting that it binds a novel interface created by two or more components. FimU is incorporated independently of the others and is proposed to couple the putative minor pilin-PilY1 complex to the major subunit. The production of small amounts of T4P by a mutant lacking the minor pilin operon was traced to expression of minor pseudopilins from the P. aeruginosa type II secretion (T2S) system, showing that under retraction-deficient conditions, T2S minor subunits can prime T4P assembly. Deletion of all minor subunits abrogated pilus assembly. In a strain lacking the minor pseudopilins, PilVWXY1 and either FimU or PilE comprised the minimal set of components required for pilus assembly. Supporting functional conservation of T2S and T4P minor components, our 1.4 Å crystal structure of FimU revealed striking architectural similarity to its T2S ortholog GspH, despite minimal sequence identity. We propose that PilVWXY1 form a priming complex for assembly and that PilE and FimU together stably couple the complex to the major subunit. Trafficking of the anti-retraction factor PilY1 to the cell surface allows for production of pili of sufficient length to support adherence and motility.
Project description:Type IV pili (Tfp) are widespread filamentous bacterial organelles that mediate multiple virulence-related phenotypes. They are composed mainly of pilin subunits, which are processed before filament assembly by dedicated prepilin peptidases. Other proteins processed by these peptidases, whose molecular nature and mode of action remain enigmatic, play critical roles in Tfp biology. We have performed a detailed structure/function analysis of one such protein, PilX from Neisseria meningitidis, which is crucial for formation of bacterial aggregates and adhesion to human cells. The x-ray crystal structure of PilX reveals the alpha/beta roll fold shared by all pilins, and we show that this protein colocalizes with Tfp. These observations suggest that PilX is a minor, or low abundance, pilin that assembles within the filaments in a similar way to pilin. Deletion of a PilX distinctive structural element, which is predicted to be exposed on the filament surface, abolishes aggregation and adhesion. Our results support a model in which surface-exposed motifs in PilX subunits stabilize bacterial aggregates against the disruptive force of pilus retraction and illustrate how a minor pilus component can enhance the functional properties of pili of rather simple composition and structure.
Project description:Many bacterial pathogens, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, use type IVa pili (T4aP) for attachment and twitching motility. T4aP are composed primarily of major pilin subunits, which are repeatedly assembled and disassembled to mediate function. A group of pilin-like proteins, the minor pilins FimU and PilVWXE, prime pilus assembly and are incorporated into the pilus. We showed previously that minor pilin PilE depends on the putative priming subcomplex PilVWX and the non-pilin protein PilY1 for incorporation into pili, and that with FimU, PilE may couple the priming subcomplex to the major pilin PilA, allowing for efficient pilus assembly. Here we provide further support for this model, showing interaction of PilE with other minor pilins and the major pilin. A 1.25 Å crystal structure of PilE?1-28 shows a typical type IV pilin fold, demonstrating how it may be incorporated into the pilus. Despite limited sequence identity, PilE is structurally similar to Neisseria meningitidis minor pilins PilXNm and PilVNm, recently suggested via characterization of mCherry fusions to modulate pilus assembly from within the periplasm. A P. aeruginosa PilE-mCherry fusion failed to complement twitching motility or piliation of a pilE mutant. However, in a retraction-deficient strain where surface piliation depends solely on PilE, the fusion construct restored some surface piliation. PilE-mCherry was present in sheared surface fractions, suggesting that it was incorporated into pili. Together, these data provide evidence that PilE, the sole P. aeruginosa equivalent of PilXNm and PilVNm, likely connects a priming subcomplex to the major pilin, promoting efficient assembly of T4aP.
Project description:Type IVa pili are ubiquitous and versatile bacterial cell surface filaments that undergo cycles of extension, adhesion and retraction powered by the cell-envelope spanning type IVa pilus machine (T4aPM). The overall architecture of the T4aPM and the location of 10 conserved core proteins within this architecture have been elucidated. Here, using genetics, cell biology, proteomics and cryo-electron tomography, we demonstrate that the PilY1 protein and four minor pilins, which are widely conserved in T4aP systems, are essential for pilus extension in Myxococcus xanthus and form a complex that is an integral part of the T4aPM. Moreover, these proteins are part of the extended pilus. Our data support a model whereby the PilY1/minor pilin complex functions as a priming complex in T4aPM for pilus extension, a tip complex in the extended pilus for adhesion, and a cork for terminating retraction to maintain a priming complex for the next round of extension.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Biofilms are surface-attached multicellular communities. Using single-cell tracking microscopy, we showed that a pilY1 mutant of Pseudomonas aeruginosa is defective in early biofilm formation. We leveraged the observation that PilY1 protein levels increase on a surface to perform a genetic screen to identify mutants altered in surface-grown expression of this protein. Based on our genetic studies, we found that soon after initiating surface growth, cyclic AMP (cAMP) levels increase, dependent on PilJ, a chemoreceptor-like protein of the Pil-Chp complex, and the type IV pilus (TFP). cAMP and its receptor protein Vfr, together with the FimS-AlgR two-component system (TCS), upregulate the expression of PilY1 upon surface growth. FimS and PilJ interact, suggesting a mechanism by which Pil-Chp can regulate FimS function. The subsequent secretion of PilY1 is dependent on the TFP assembly system; thus, PilY1 is not deployed until the pilus is assembled, allowing an ordered signaling cascade. Cell surface-associated PilY1 in turn signals through the TFP alignment complex PilMNOP and the diguanylate cyclase SadC to activate downstream cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) production, thereby repressing swarming motility. Overall, our data support a model whereby P. aeruginosa senses the surface through the Pil-Chp chemotaxis-like complex, TFP, and PilY1 to regulate cAMP and c-di-GMP production, thereby employing a hierarchical regulatory cascade of second messengers to coordinate its program of surface behaviors. IMPORTANCE:Biofilms are surface-attached multicellular communities. Here, we show that a stepwise regulatory circuit, involving ordered signaling via two different second messengers, is required for Pseudomonas aeruginosa to control early events in cell-surface interactions. We propose that our studies have uncovered a multilayered "surface-sensing" system that allows P. aeruginosa to effectively coordinate its surface-associated behaviors. Understanding how cells transition into the biofilm state on a surface may provide new approaches to prevent formation of these communities.
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:Transformation in most bacteria is dependent on orthologues of Type 2 secretion and Type 4 pilus system proteins. In each system, pilin proteins (major and minor) are required to make the pilus structure and are essential to the process, although the precise roles of the minor pilins remain unclear. We have explored protein-protein interactions among the competence minor pilins of Bacillus subtilis through in vitro binding studies, immunopurification and mass spectrometry. We demonstrate that the minor pilins directly interact, and the minor pilin ComGG interacts with most of the known proteins required for transformation. We find that ComGG requires other ComG proteins for its stabilization and for processing by the pre-pilin peptidase. These observations, C-terminal mutations in ComGG that prevent processing and the inaccessibility of pre-ComGG to externally added protease suggest a model in which pre-ComGG must be associated with other minor pilins for processing to take place. We propose that ComGG does not become a transmembrane protein until after processing. These behaviours contrast with that of pre-ComGC, the major pilin, which is accessible to externally added protease and requires only the peptidase to be processed. The roles of the pilins and of the pilus in transformation are discussed.
Project description:Vibrio cholerae is the etiological agent of the acute intestinal disorder cholera. The toxin-coregulated pilus (TCP), a type IVb pilus, is an essential virulence factor of V. cholerae Recent work has shown that TcpB is a large minor pilin encoded within the tcp operon. TcpB contributes to efficient pilus formation and is essential for all TCP functions. Here, we have initiated a detailed targeted mutagenesis approach to further characterize this salient TCP component. We have identified (thus far) 20 residues of TcpB which affect either the steady-state level of TcpB or alter one or more TCP functions. This study provides a solid framework for further understanding of the complex role of TcpB and will be of use upon determination of the crystal structure of TcpB or related minor pilin orthologs of type IVb pilus systems.Type IV pili, such as the toxin-coregulated pilus (TCP) in V. cholerae, are bacterial appendages that often act as essential virulence factors. Minor pilins, like TcpB, of these pili systems often play integral roles in pilus assembly and function. In this study, we have generated mutations in tcpB to determine residues of importance for TCP stability and function. Combined with a predicted tertiary structure, characterization of these mutants allows us to better understand critical residues in TcpB and the role they may play in the mechanisms underlying minor pilin functions.
Project description:Adherence to host tissues mediated by pili is pivotal in the establishment of infection by many bacterial pathogens. Corynebacterium diphtheriae assembles on its surface three distinct pilus structures. The function and the mechanism of how various pili mediate adherence, however, have remained poorly understood. Here we show that the SpaA-type pilus is sufficient for the specific adherence of corynebacteria to human pharyngeal epithelial cells. The deletion of the spaA gene, which encodes the major pilin forming the pilus shaft, abolishes pilus assembly but not adherence to pharyngeal cells. In contrast, adherence is greatly diminished when either minor pilin SpaB or SpaC is absent. Antibodies directed against either SpaB or SpaC block bacterial adherence. Consistent with a direct role of the minor pilins, latex beads coated with SpaB or SpaC protein bind specifically to pharyngeal cells. Therefore, tissue tropism of corynebacteria for pharyngeal cells is governed by specific minor pilins. Importantly, immunoelectron microscopy and immunofluorescence studies reveal clusters of minor pilins that are anchored to cell surface in the absence of a pilus shaft. Thus, the minor pilins may also be cell wall anchored in addition to their incorporation into pilus structures that could facilitate tight binding to host cells during bacterial infection.