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J Biol Chem. 1991 Jan 25;266(3):1656-64.

Amino acid substitutions in pilin of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Effect on leader peptide cleavage, amino-terminal methylation, and pilus assembly.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


A total of 37 separate mutants containing single and multiple amino acid substitutions in the leader and amino-terminal conserved region of the Type IV pilin from Pseudomonas aeruginosa were generated by oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis. The effect of these substitutions on the secretion, processing, and assembly of the pilin monomers into mature pili was examined. The majority of substitutions in the highly conserved amino-terminal region of the pilin monomer had no effect on piliation. Likewise, substitution of several of the residues within the six amino acid leader sequence did not affect secretion and leader cleavage (processing), including replacement of one or both of the positively charged lysine residues with uncharged or negatively charged amino acids. One characteristic of the Type IV pili is the presence of an amino-terminal phenylalanine after leader peptide cleavage which is N-methylated prior to assembly of pilin monomers into pili. Substitution of the amino-terminal phenylalanine with a number of other amino acids, including polar, hydrophobic, and charged residues, did not affect proper leader cleavage and subsequent assembly into pili. Amino-terminal sequencing showed that the majority of substitute residues were also methylated. Substitution of the glycine residue at the -1 position to the cleavage site resulted in the inability to cleave the prepilin monomers and blocked the subsequent assembly of monomers into pili. These results indicate that despite the high degree of conservation in the amino-terminal sequences of the Type IV pili, N-methylphenylalanine at the +1 position relative to the leader peptide cleavage site is not strictly required for pilin assembly. N-Methylation of the amino acids substituted for phenylalanine was shown to have taken place in four of the five mutants tested, but it remains unclear as to whether pilin assembly is dependent on this modification. Recognition and proper cleavage of the prepilin by the leader peptidase appears to be dependent only on the glycine residue at the -1 position. Cell fractionation experiments demonstrated that pilin isolated from mutants deficient in prepilin processing and/or assembly was found in both inner and outer membrane fractions, indistinguishable from the results seen with the wild type.

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