The Platform Protein Is Essential for Type IV Pilus Biogenesis
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A systematic genetic analysis was performed to identify the inner membrane proteins essential for type IV pilus (T4P) expression in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. By inactivating the retraction aspect of pilus function, genes essential for T4P assembly were discriminated. In contrast to previous studies in the T4P system of Neisseria spp., we found that components of the inner membrane subcomplex consisting of PilMNOP were not essential for surface pilus expression, whereas the highly conserved inner membrane protein PilC was essential. Here, we present data that PilC may coordinate the activity of cytoplasmic polymerization (PilB) and depolymerization (PilT) ATPases via their interactions with its two cytoplasmic domains. Using in vitro co-affinity purification, we show that PilB interacts with the N-terminal cytoplasmic domain of PilC. We hypothesized that PilT similarly interacts with the PilC C-terminal cytoplasmic domain. Overexpression of that domain in the wild-type protein reduced twitching motility by ∼50% compared with the vector control. Site-directed mutagenesis of conserved T4P-specific residues in the PilC C-terminal domain yielded mutant proteins that supported wild-type pilus assembly but had a reduced capacity to support twitching motility, suggesting impairment of putative PilC-PilT interactions. Taken together, our results show that PilC is an essential inner membrane component of the T4P system, controlling both pilus assembly and disassembly.
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