Perturbing the acetylation status of the Type IV pilus retraction motor, PilT, reduces Neisseria gonorrhoeae viability.
ABSTRACT: 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:Bacterial type IV pili are critical for diverse biological processes including horizontal gene transfer, surface sensing, biofilm formation, adherence, motility, and virulence. These dynamic appendages extend and retract from the cell surface. In many type IVa pilus systems, extension occurs through the action of an extension ATPase, often called PilB, while optimal retraction requires the action of a retraction ATPase, PilT. Many type IVa systems also encode a homolog of PilT called PilU. However, the function of this protein has remained unclear because pilU mutants exhibit inconsistent phenotypes among type IV pilus systems and because it is relatively understudied compared to PilT. Here, we study the type IVa competence pilus of Vibrio cholerae as a model system to define the role of PilU. We show that the ATPase activity of PilU is critical for pilus retraction in PilT Walker A and/or Walker B mutants. PilU does not, however, contribute to pilus retraction in ?pilT strains. Thus, these data suggest that PilU is a bona fide retraction ATPase that supports pilus retraction in a PilT-dependent manner. We also found that a ?pilU mutant exhibited a reduction in the force of retraction suggesting that PilU is important for generating maximal retraction forces. Additional in vitro and in vivo data show that PilT and PilU act as independent homo-hexamers that may form a complex to facilitate pilus retraction. Finally, we demonstrate that the role of PilU as a PilT-dependent retraction ATPase is conserved in Acinetobacter baylyi, suggesting that the role of PilU described here may be broadly applicable to other type IVa pilus systems.
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: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:The ATPase protein PilT mediates retraction of type IV pili (Tfp). Tfp retraction of Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes many signal transduction events and changes in gene expression in infected epithelial cells. To find out whether a pilT mutation and lack of Tfp retraction, respectively, lead also to gene regulation in bacteria, we performed microarrays comparing the transcriptional profiles of the N. gonorrhoeae parent strain MS11 and its isogenic pilT mutant during growth in vitro. A loss-of-function-mutation in pilT led to altered transcript levels of 63 ORFs. Levels of pilE transcripts and its deduced protein, the major Tfp subunit pilin, were increased most markedly by a mutation in pilT. Further studies revealed that pilE expression was also controlled by two other genes encoding Tfp biogenesis proteins, pilD and pilF. Our studies strongly suggest that pilE expression is a finely tuned process.
Project description:Retraction of the type IV pilus (Tfp) mediates DNA uptake, motility, and social and infection behavior in a wide variety of prokaryotes. To date, investigations into Tfp retraction-dependent activities have used a mutant deleted of PilT, the ATPase motor protein that causes the pilus fiber to retract. ?pilT cells are nontransformable, nonmotile, and cannot aggregate into microcolonies. We tested the hypothesis that these retraction-dependent activities are sensitive to the strength of PilT enzymatic activity by using the pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae as a model. We constructed an N. gonorrhoeae mutant with an amino acid substitution in the PilT Walker B box (a substitution of cysteine for leucine at position 201, encoded by pilT<sub>L201C</sub>). Purified PilT<sub>L201C</sub> forms a native hexamer, but mutant hexamers hydrolyze ATP at half the maximal rate. N. gonorrhoeae pilT<sub>L201C</sub> cells produce Tfp fibers, crawl at the same speed as the wild-type (wt) parent, and are equally transformable. However, the social behavior of pilT<sub>L201C</sub> cells is intermediate between the behaviors of wt and ?pilT cells. The infection behavior of pilT<sub>L201C</sub> is also defective, due to its failure to activate the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) pathway. Our study indicates that pilus retraction, per se, is not sufficient for N. gonorrhoeae microcolony formation or infectivity; rather, these activities are sensitive to the strength of PilT enzymatic activity. We discuss the implications of these findings for Neisseria pathogenesis in the context of mechanobiology.<h4>Importance</h4>Type IV pili are fibers expressed on the surface of many bacteria. Neisseria gonorrhoeae cells crawl, take up DNA, and communicate with each other and with human cells by retracting these fibers. Here, we show that an N. gonorrhoeae mutant expressing an enzymatically weakened type IV pilus retraction motor still crawls and takes up DNA normally. However, mutant cells exhibit abnormal social behavior, and they are less infective because they fail to activate the epidermal growth factor receptor. Our study shows that N. gonorrhoeae social and infection behaviors are sensitive to the strength of the retraction motor enzyme.
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:The ATPase protein PilT mediates retraction of type IV pili. We performed microarrays comparing the transcription profile of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae wild-type strain MS11 and its isogenic pilT mutant. 63 open reading frames were found to be differentially regulated in the pilT mutant. Most interestingly, a loss of function mutation in pilT leads to an upregulation of pilE, which encodes the pilus subunit protein. Overall design: Ngo arrays were generated as custom 8x15 K microarrays (Agilent Technologies) covering all open reading frames (ORFs) from N. gonorrhoeae strain FA1090 (accession number AE004969) supplemented with all ORFs from the gonoccoccal genetic island of strain MS11 (accession number AY803022) by 6 specific 60-mer oligonucleotides per gene on average. Microarray analysis was performed as dual-color hybridization with dye-reversal color-swaps as technical replicates for Cy-dye specific effect compensation and three independent biological replicates. Microarray features were extracted with the FE 22.214.171.124 software from Agilent Technologies using the GE2-v4_95_Feb07 protocol with default settings. Data were loaded into Resolver (Rosetta Biosoftware) using the MAGE-ML loader and analyzed for differential gene expression. Ratio profiles were combined into ratio experiments and regulated genes were identified with a threshold of 1.75 fold-change and anti-correlation of the color-swapped dye reversals, rendering the analysis highly stringent and robust with P values <0.0001 of the results.
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: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 ATPase protein PilT mediates retraction of type IV pili. We performed microarrays comparing the transcription profile of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae wild-type strain MS11 and its isogenic pilT mutant. 63 open reading frames were found to be differentially regulated in the pilT mutant. Most interestingly, a loss of function mutation in pilT leads to an upregulation of pilE, which encodes the pilus subunit protein. Ngo arrays were generated as custom 8x15 K microarrays (Agilent Technologies) covering all open reading frames (ORFs) from N. gonorrhoeae strain FA1090 (accession number AE004969) supplemented with all ORFs from the gonoccoccal genetic island of strain MS11 (accession number AY803022) by 6 specific 60-mer oligonucleotides per gene on average. Microarray analysis was performed as dual-color hybridization with dye-reversal color-swaps as technical replicates for Cy-dye specific effect compensation and three independent biological replicates. Microarray features were extracted with the FE 126.96.36.199 software from Agilent Technologies using the GE2-v4_95_Feb07 protocol with default settings. Data were loaded into Resolver (Rosetta Biosoftware) using the MAGE-ML loader and analyzed for differential gene expression. Ratio profiles were combined into ratio experiments and regulated genes were identified with a threshold of 1.75 fold-change and anti-correlation of the color-swapped dye reversals, rendering the analysis highly stringent and robust with P values <0.0001 of the results.