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Microbiology. 2003 Apr;149(Pt 4):961-71.

Identification and molecular analysis of cable pilus biosynthesis genes in Burkholderia cepacia.

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Division of Structural Biology and Biochemistry, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1X8.


Burkholderia cepacia is an opportunistic respiratory pathogen in cystic fibrosis patients. One highly transmissible and virulent clone belonging to genomovar IIIa expresses pili with unique cable morphology, which enable the bacterium to bind cytokeratin 13 in epithelial cells. The cblA gene, encoding the major pilin subunit, is often used as a DNA marker to identify potentially virulent isolates. The authors have now cloned and sequenced four additional genes, cblB, cblC, cblD and cblS, in the pilus gene cluster. This work shows that the products of the first four genes of the cbl operon, cblA, cblB, cblC and cblD, are sufficient for pilus assembly on the bacterial surface. Deletion of cblB abrogated pilus assembly and compromised the stability of the CblA protein in the periplasm. In contrast, deletion of cblD resulted in no pili, but there was no effect on expression and stability of the CblA protein subunit. These results, together with protein sequence homologies, predicted structural analyses, and the presence of typical amino acid motifs, are consistent with the assignment of functional roles for CblB as a chaperone that stabilizes the major pilin subunit in the periplasm, and CblD as the initiator of pilus biogenesis. It is also shown that expression of Cbl pili in Escherichia coli is not sufficient to mediate the binding of bacteria to the epithelial cell receptor cytokeratin 13, and that B. cepacia still binds to cytokeratin 13 in the absence of Cbl pili, suggesting that additional bacterial components are required for effective binding.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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