Novel Role for PilNO in Type IV Pilus Retraction Revealed by Alignment Subcomplex Mutations Journal Articles uri icon

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  • ABSTRACTType IV pili (T4P) are dynamic protein filaments that mediate bacterial adhesion, biofilm formation, and twitching motility. The highly conserved PilMNOP proteins form an inner membrane alignment subcomplex required for function of the T4P system, though their exact roles are unclear. Three potential interaction interfaces for PilNO were identified: core-core, coiled coils (CC), and the transmembrane segments (TMSs). A high-confidence PilNO heterodimer model was used to select key residues for mutation, and the resulting effects on protein-protein interactions were examined both in a bacterial two-hybrid (BTH) system and in their nativePseudomonas aeruginosacontext. Mutations in the oppositely charged CC regions or the TMS disrupted PilNO heterodimer formation in the BTH assay, while up to six combined mutations in the core failed to disrupt the interaction. When the mutations were introduced into theP. aeruginosachromosome at thepilNorpilOlocus, specific changes at each of the three interfaces—including core mutations that failed to disrupt interactions in the BTH system—abrogated surface piliation and/or impaired twitching motility. Unexpectedly, specific CC mutants were hyperpiliated but nonmotile, a hallmark of pilus retraction defects. These data suggest that PilNO participate in both the extension and retraction of T4P. Our findings support a model of multiple, precise interaction interfaces between PilNO; emphasize the importance of studying protein function in a minimally perturbed context and stoichiometry; and highlight potential target sites for development of small-molecule inhibitors of the T4P system.IMPORTANCEPseudomonas aeruginosais an opportunistic pathogen that uses type IV pili (T4P) for host attachment. The T4P machinery is composed of four cell envelope-spanning subcomplexes. PilN and PilO heterodimers are part of the alignment subcomplex and essential for T4P function. Three potential PilNO interaction interfaces (the core-core, coiled-coil, and transmembrane segment interfaces) were probed using site-directed mutagenesis followed by functional assays in anEscherichia colitwo-hybrid system and inP. aeruginosa. Several mutations blocked T4P assembly and/or motility, including two that revealed a novel role for PilNO in pilus retraction, while other mutations affected extension dynamics. These critical PilNO interaction interfaces represent novel targets for small-molecule inhibitors with the potential to disrupt T4P function.


  • Leighton, Tiffany L
  • Dayalani, Neha
  • Sampaleanu, Liliana M
  • Howell, P Lynne
  • Burrows, Lori

publication date

  • July 1, 2015