Pseudomonas aeruginosa orchestrates twitching motility by sequential control of type IV pili movements.
ABSTRACT: 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:Type IV pili (TFP) function through cycles of extension and retraction. The coordination of these cycles remains mysterious due to a lack of quantitative measurements of multiple features of TFP dynamics. Here, we fluorescently label TFP in the pathogen <i>Pseudomonas aeruginosa</i> and track full extension and retraction cycles of individual filaments. Polymerization and depolymerization dynamics are stochastic; TFP are made at random times and extend, pause, and retract for random lengths of time. TFP can also pause for extended periods between two extension or two retraction events in both wild-type cells and a slowly retracting PilT mutant. We developed a biophysical model based on the stochastic binding of two dedicated extension and retraction motors to the same pilus machine that predicts the observed features of the data with no free parameters. We show that only a model in which both motors stochastically bind and unbind to the pilus machine independent of the piliation state of the machine quantitatively explains the experimentally observed pilus production rate. In experimental support of this model, we show that the abundance of the retraction motor dictates the pilus production rate and that PilT is bound to pilus machines even in their unpiliated state. Together, the strong quantitative agreement of our model with a variety of experiments suggests that the entire repetitive cycle of pilus extension and retraction is coordinated by the competition of stochastic motor binding to the pilus machine, and that the retraction motor is the major throttle for pilus production.
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: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:Type IV pili (TFP) play central roles in the expression of many phenotypes including motility, multicellular behavior, sensitivity to bacteriophages, natural genetic transformation, and adherence. In Neisseria gonorrhoeae, these properties require ancillary proteins that act in conjunction with TFP expression and influence organelle dynamics. Here, the intrinsic contributions of the pilin protein itself to TFP dynamics and associated phenotypes were examined by expressing the Pseudomonas aeruginosa PilA(PAK) pilin subunit in N. gonorrhoeae. We show here that, although PilA(PAK) pilin can be readily assembled into TFP in this background, steady-state levels of purifiable fibers are dramatically reduced relative those of endogenous pili. This defect is due to aberrant TFP dynamics as it is suppressed in the absence of the PilT pilus retraction ATPase. Functionally, PilA(PAK) pilin complements gonococcal adherence for human epithelial cells but only in a pilT background, and this property remains dependent on the coexpression of both the PilC adhesin and the PilV pilin-like protein. Since P. aeruginosa pilin only moderately supports neisserial sequence-specific transformation despite its assembly proficiency, these results together suggest that PilA(PAK) pilin functions suboptimally in this environment. This appears to be due to diminished compatibility with resident proteins essential for TFP function and dynamics. Despite this, PilA(PAK) pili support retractile force generation in this background equivalent to that reported for endogenous pili. Furthermore, PilA(PAK) pili are both necessary and sufficient for bacteriophage PO4 binding, although the strain remains phage resistant. Together, these findings have significant implications for TFP biology in both N. gonorrhoeae and P. aeruginosa.
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:Pseudomonas aeruginosa move across surfaces by using multiple Type IV Pili (TFP), motorized appendages capable of force generation via linear extension/retraction cycles, to generate surface motions collectively known as twitching motility. Pseudomonas cells arrive at a surface with low levels of piliation and TFP activity, which both progressively increase as the cells sense the presence of a surface. At present, it is not clear how twitching motility emerges from these initial minimal conditions. Here, we build a simple model for TFP-driven surface motility without complications from viscous and solid friction on surfaces. We discover the unanticipated structural requirement that TFP motors need to have a minimal amount of effective angular rigidity in order for cells to perform the various classes of experimentally-observed motions. Moreover, a surprisingly small number of TFP are needed to recapitulate movement signatures associated with twitching: Two TFP can already produce movements reminiscent of recently observed slingshot type motion. Interestingly, jerky slingshot motions characteristic of twitching motility comprise the transition region between different types of observed crawling behavior in the dynamical phase diagram, such as self-trapped localized motion, 2-D diffusive exploration, and super-diffusive persistent motion.
Project description:Pathogenic Neisseria express type IV pili (tfp), which have been shown to play a central role in the interactions of bacteria with their environment. The regulation of piliation thus constitutes a central element in bacterial life cycle. The PilC proteins are outer membrane-associated proteins that have a key role in tfp biogenesis since PilC-null mutants appear defective for fibre expression. Moreover, tfp are also subjected to retraction, which is under the control of the PilT nucleotide-binding protein. In this work, we bring evidence that fibre retraction involves the translocation of pilin subunits to the cytoplasmic membrane. Furthermore, by engineering meningococcal strains that harbour inducible pilC genes, and with the use of meningococcus-cell interaction as a model for the sequential observation of fibre expression and retraction, we show that the PilC proteins regulate PilT-mediated fibre retraction.
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: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:Type IV pili (T4P) are surface structures that undergo extension/retraction oscillations to generate cell motility. In Myxococcus xanthus, T4P are unipolarly localized and undergo pole-to-pole oscillations synchronously with cellular reversals. We investigated the mechanisms underlying these oscillations. We show that several T4P proteins localize symmetrically in clusters at both cell poles between reversals, and these clusters remain stationary during reversals. Conversely, the PilB and PilT motor ATPases that energize extension and retraction, respectively, localize to opposite poles with PilB predominantly at the piliated and PilT predominantly at the non-piliated pole, and these proteins oscillate between the poles during reversals. Therefore, T4P pole-to-pole oscillations involve the disassembly of T4P machinery at one pole and reassembly of this machinery at the opposite pole. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments showed rapid turnover of YFP-PilT in the polar clusters between reversals. Moreover, PilT displays bursts of accumulation at the piliated pole between reversals. These observations suggest that the spatial separation of PilB and PilT in combination with the noisy PilT accumulation at the piliated pole allow the temporal separation of extension and retraction. This is the first demonstration that the function of a molecular machine depends on disassembly and reassembly of its individual parts.