Structure and function of minor pilins of type IV pili.
ABSTRACT: Type IV pili are versatile and highly flexible fibers formed on the surface of many Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. Virulence and infection rate of several pathogenic bacteria, such as Neisseria meningitidis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, are strongly dependent on the presence of pili as they facilitate the adhesion of the bacteria to the host cell. Disruption of the interactions between the pili and the host cells by targeting proteins involved in this interaction could, therefore, be a treatment strategy. A type IV pilus is primarily composed of multiple copies of protein subunits called major pilins. Additional proteins, called minor pilins, are present in lower abundance, but are essential for the assembly of the pilus or for its specific functions. One class of minor pilins is required to initiate the formation of pili, and may form a complex similar to that identified in the related type II secretion system. Other, species-specific minor pilins in the type IV pilus system have been shown to promote additional functions such as DNA binding, aggregation and adherence. Here, we will review the structure and the function of the minor pilins from type IV pili.
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: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: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.
Project description: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: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: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:The ability of pathogens to cause disease depends on their aptitude to escape the immune system. Type IV pili are extracellular filamentous virulence factors composed of pilin monomers and frequently expressed by bacterial pathogens. As such they are major targets for the host immune system. In the human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis, strains expressing class I pilins contain a genetic recombination system that promotes variation of the pilin sequence and is thought to aid immune escape. However, numerous hypervirulent clinical isolates express class II pilins that lack this property. This raises the question of how they evade immunity targeting type IV pili. As glycosylation is a possible source of antigenic variation it was investigated using top-down mass spectrometry to provide the highest molecular precision on the modified proteins. Unlike class I pilins that carry a single glycan, we found that class II pilins display up to 5 glycosylation sites per monomer on the pilus surface. Swapping of pilin class and genetic background shows that the pilin primary structure determines multisite glycosylation while the genetic background determines the nature of the glycans. Absence of glycosylation in class II pilins affects pilus biogenesis or enhances pilus-dependent aggregation in a strain specific fashion highlighting the extensive functional impact of multisite glycosylation. Finally, molecular modeling shows that glycans cover the surface of class II pilins and strongly decrease antibody access to the polypeptide chain. This strongly supports a model where strains expressing class II pilins evade the immune system by changing their sugar structure rather than pilin primary structure. Overall these results show that sequence invariable class II pilins are cloaked in glycans with extensive functional and immunological consequences.
Project description:Type IV pili play important roles in a wide array of processes, including surface adhesion and twitching motility. Although archaeal genomes encode a diverse set of type IV pilus subunits, the functions for most remain unknown. We have now characterized six Haloferax volcanii pilins, PilA[1-6], each containing an identical 30-amino-acid N-terminal hydrophobic motif that is part of a larger highly conserved domain of unknown function (Duf1628). Deletion mutants lacking up to five of the six pilin genes display no significant adhesion defects; however, H. volcanii lacking all six pilins (?pilA[1-6]) does not adhere to glass or plastic. Consistent with these results, the expression of any one of these pilins in trans is sufficient to produce functional pili in the ?pilA[1-6] strain. PilA1His and PilA2His only partially rescue this phenotype, whereas ?pilA[1-6] strains expressing PilA3His or PilA4His adhere even more strongly than the parental strain. Most surprisingly, expressing either PilA5His or PilA6His in the ?pilA[1-6] strain results in microcolony formation. A hybrid protein in which the conserved N terminus of the mature PilA1His is replaced with the corresponding N domain of FlgA1 is processed by the prepilin peptidase, but it does not assemble functional pili, leading us to conclude that Duf1628 can be annotated as the N terminus of archaeal PilA adhesion pilins. Finally, the pilin prediction program, FlaFind, which was trained primarily on archaeal flagellin sequences, was successfully refined to more accurately predict pilins based on the in vivo verification of PilA[1-6].
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: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.