- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Secretins are versatile outer membrane pores used by many bacteria to secrete proteins, toxins or filamentous phages, extrude type IV pili (T4P) or take up DNA. Extrusion of T4P and natural transformation of DNA in the thermophilic bacterium Thermus thermophilus requires a unique secretin complex comprising six stacked rings, a membrane-embedded cone structure and two gates that open and close a central channel. To investigate the role of distinct domains in ring and gate formation, we examined a set of deletion derivatives by cryo-microscopy techniques. Here, we report that maintaining the N0 ring in the deletion derivatives led to stable PilQ complexes. Analyses of the variants unravelled that an N-terminal domain comprising a unique βββαβ fold is essential for the formation of gate 2. Furthermore, we identified four βαββα domains essential for the formation of the N2 to N5 rings. Mutant studies revealed that deletion of individual ring domains significantly reduces piliation. The N1, N2, N4 and N5 deletion mutants were significantly impaired in T4P-mediated twitching motility, whereas the motility of the N3 mutant was comparable to those of wild-type cells. This indicates that the deletion of the N3 ring leads to increased pilus dynamics, thereby compensating for the reduced number of pili of the N3 mutant. All mutants exhibit a wild-type natural transformation phenotype, leading to the conclusion that DNA uptake is independent of functional T4P.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Thermus thermophilus is a model strain to unravel the molecular basis of horizontal gene transfer in hot environments. Previous genetic studies led to the identification of a macromolecular transport machinery mediating DNA uptake in an energy-dependent manner. Here, we have addressed how the transporter is energized. Inspection of the genome sequence revealed four putative transport (AAA) ATPases but only the deletion of one, PilF, led to a transformation defect. PilF is similar to transport ATPases of type IV and type II secretions systems but has a unique N-terminal sequence that carries a triplicated GSPII domain. To characterize PilF biochemically it was produced in Escherichia coli and purified. The recombinant protein displayed NTPase activity with a preference for ATP. Gel filtration analyses combined with dynamic light scattering demonstrated that PilF is monodispersed in solution and forms a complex of 590 ± 30 kDa, indicating a homooligomer of six subunits. It contains a tetracysteine motif, previously shown to bind Zn(2+) in related NTPases. Using atomic absorption spectroscopy, indeed Zn(2+) was detected in the enzyme, but in contrast to all known zinc-binding traffic NTPases only one zinc atom was bound to the hexamer. Deletion of the four cysteine residues led to a loss of Zn(2+). Nevertheless, the mutant protein retained ATPase activity and hexameric complex formation.
Dataset: Supplementary material 1