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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Jan;55(1):115-24.

The type IV secretion apparatus protein VirB6 of Agrobacterium tumefaciens localizes to a cell pole.

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Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Agrobacterium tumefaciens VirB proteins assemble a type IV secretion apparatus for the transfer of DNA and proteins to plant cells. To study the role of the VirB6 protein in the assembly and function of the type IV apparatus, we determined its subcellular location by immunofluorescence microscopy. In wild-type bacteria VirB6 localized to the cell poles but in the absence of the tumour-inducing plasmid it localized to random sites on the cell membranes. Five of the 11 VirB proteins, VirB7-VirB11, are required for the polar localization of VirB6. We identified two regions of VirB6, a conserved tryptophan residue at position 197 and the extreme C-terminus, that are essential for its polar localization. Topology determination by PhoA fusion analysis placed both regions in the cell cytoplasm. Alteration of tryptophan 197 or the deletion of the extreme C-terminus led to the mislocalization of the mutant protein. The mutations abolished the DNA transfer function of the protein as well. The C-terminus of VirB6, in silico, can form an amphipathic helix that may encode a protein-protein interaction domain essential for targeting the protein to a cell pole. We previously reported that another DNA transfer protein, VirD4, localizes to a cell pole. To determine whether VirB6 and VirD4 localize to the same pole, we performed colocalization experiments. Both proteins localized to the same pole indicating that VirB6 and VirD4 are in close proximity and VirB6 is probably a component of the transport apparatus.

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