Requirement of novel competence genes pilT and pilU of Pseudomonas stutzeri for natural transformation and suppression of pilT deficiency by a hexahistidine tag on the type IV pilus protein PilAI.
ABSTRACT: 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: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: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: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:Type IV fimbriae are essential virulence factors of Dichelobacter nodosus, the principal causative agent of ovine foot rot. The fimA fimbrial subunit gene is required for virulence, but fimA mutants exhibit several phenotypic changes and it is not certain if the effects on virulence result from the loss of type IV fimbria-mediated twitching motility, cell adherence, or reduced protease secretion. We showed that mutation of either the pilT or pilU gene eliminated the ability to carry out twitching motility. However, the pilT mutants displayed decreased adhesion to epithelial cells and reduced protease secretion, whereas the pilU mutants had wild-type levels of extracellular protease secretion and adherence. These data provided evidence that PilT is required for the type IV fimbria-dependent protease secretion pathway in D. nodosus. It was postulated that sufficient fimbrial retraction must occur in the pilU mutants to allow protease secretion, but not twitching motility, to take place. Although no cell movement was detected in a pilU mutant of D. nodosus, aberrant motion was detected in an equivalent mutant of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These observations explain how in D. nodosus protease secretion can occur in a pilU mutant but not in a pilT mutant. In addition, virulence studies with sheep showed that both the pilT and pilU mutants were avirulent, providing evidence that mutation of the type IV fimbrial system affects virulence by eliminating twitching motility, not by altering cell adherence or protease secretion.
Project description: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:Pseudomonas stutzeri lives in terrestrial and aquatic habitats and is capable of natural genetic transformation. After transposon mutagenesis, transformation-deficient mutants were isolated from a P. stutzeri JM300 strain. In one of them a gene which coded for a protein with 75% amino acid sequence identity to PilC of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an accessory protein for type IV pilus biogenesis, was inactivated. The presence of type IV pili was demonstrated by susceptibility to the type IV pilus-dependent phage PO4, by occurrence of twitching motility, and by electron microscopy. The pilC mutant had no pili and was defective in twitching motility. Further sequencing revealed that pilC is clustered in an operon with genes homologous to pilB and pilD of P. aeruginosa, which are also involved in pilus formation. Next to these genes but transcribed in the opposite orientation a pilA gene encoding a protein with high amino acid sequence identity to pilin, the structural component of type IV pili, was identified. Insertional inactivation of pilA abolished pilus formation, PO4 plating, twitching motility, and natural transformation. The amounts of (3)H-labeled P. stutzeri DNA that were bound to competent parental cells and taken up were strongly reduced in the pilC and pilA mutants. Remarkably, the cloned pilA genes from nontransformable organisms like Dichelobacter nodosus and the PAK and PAO strains of P. aeruginosa fully restored pilus formation and transformability of the P. stutzeri pilA mutant (along with PO4 plating and twitching motility). It is concluded that the type IV pili of the soil bacterium P. stutzeri function in DNA uptake for transformation and that their role in this process is not confined to the species-specific pilin.
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 of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the Gram-negative etiologic agent of gonorrhea, facilitate colonization of the human host. Gonococcal PilT, a protein belonging to a large family of molecules sharing a highly conserved nucleotide binding domain motif, has been shown to be dispensable for organelle biogenesis but essential for twitching motility and competence for genetic transformation. Here, we show that the defect in pilus biogenesis resulting from mutations in the pilC gene, encoding a putative pilus-associated adhesin for human tissue, can be suppressed by the absence of functional PilT. These data conclusively demonstrate that PilT influences the Type IV pilus biogenesis pathway and strongly suggest that organelle expression is a dynamic process. In addition, these findings imply that PilT antagonizes the process of organelle biogenesis and provide the basis for a model for how the counteractive roles of PilT and PilC might relate mechanistically to the phenomenon of twitching motility.
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:PilT is a hexameric ATPase required for type IV pilus retraction in gram-negative bacteria. Retraction of type IV pili mediates intimate attachment to and signaling in host cells, surface motility, biofilm formation, natural transformation, and phage sensitivity. We investigated the in vivo and in vitro roles of each amino acid of the distinct, highly conserved C-terminal AIRNLIRE motif in PilT. Substitution of amino acids A288, I289, L292, and I293 as well as a double substitution of R290 and R294 abolished Pseudomonas aeruginosa PilT function in vivo, as measured by a loss of surface motility and phage sensitivity. When introduced into purified Aquifex aeolicus PilT, substitutions in the AIRNLIRE motif did not disrupt ATPase activity or oligomerization. In contrast, a K136Q substitution in the broadly conserved nucleotide binding motif prevented PilT function in vivo as well as in vitro. We propose that the AIRNLIRE motif forms an amphipathic alpha helix which transmits signals between a surface-exposed protein interaction site and the ATPase core of PilT, and we recognize a potential functional homology in other type II secretion ATPases.