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J Bacteriol. 1990 Jun;172(6):2911-9.

Products of three accessory genes, pilB, pilC, and pilD, are required for biogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa pili.

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


The polar pili of Pseudomonas aeruginosa are composed of monomers of the pilin structural subunits. The biogenesis of pili involves the synthesis of pilin precursor, cleavage of a six-amino-acid leader peptide, membrane translocation, and assembly of monomers into a filamentous structure extending from the bacterial surface. This report describes three novel genes necessary for the formation of pili. DNA sequences adjacent to pilA, the pilin structural gene, were cloned and mutagenized with transposon Tn5. Each of the insertions were introduced into the chromosome of P. aeruginosa PAK by gene replacement. The effect of the Tn5 insertions in the bacterial chromosome on pilus assembly was assessed by electron microscopy and sensitivity of mutants to a pilus-specific bacteriophage. The resultant mutants were also tested for synthesis and membrane localization of the pilin antigen in order to define the genes required for maturation, export, and assembly of pilin. A 4.0-kilobase-pair region of DNA adjacent to the pilin structural gene was found to be essential for formation of pili. This region was sequenced and found to contain three open reading frames coding for 62-, 38- to 45-, and 28- to 32-kilodalton proteins (pilB, pilC, and pilD, respectively). Three proteins of similar molecular weight were expressed in Escherichia coli from the 4.0-kilobase-pair fragment flanking pilA with use of a T7 promoter-polymerase expression system. The results of the analyses of the three genes and the implications for pilin assembly and maturation are discussed.

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