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Structure. 2007 Mar;15(3):363-76.

Crystal structures of the pilus retraction motor PilT suggest large domain movements and subunit cooperation drive motility.

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  • 1Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.

Abstract

PilT is a hexameric ATPase required for bacterial type IV pilus retraction and surface motility. Crystal structures of ADP- and ATP-bound Aquifex aeolicus PilT at 2.8 and 3.2 A resolution show N-terminal PAS-like and C-terminal RecA-like ATPase domains followed by a set of short C-terminal helices. The hexamer is formed by extensive polar subunit interactions between the ATPase core of one monomer and the N-terminal domain of the next. An additional structure captures a nonsymmetric PilT hexamer in which approach of invariant arginines from two subunits to the bound nucleotide forms an enzymatically competent active site. A panel of pilT mutations highlights the importance of the arginines, the PAS-like domain, the polar subunit interface, and the C-terminal helices for retraction. We present a model for ATP binding leading to dramatic PilT domain motions, engagement of the arginine wire, and subunit communication in this hexameric motor. Our conclusions apply to the entire type II/IV secretion ATPase family.

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