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PLoS Biol. 2008 Feb;6(2):e44. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060044.

VirE2: a unique ssDNA-compacting molecular machine.

Author information

1
Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.

Abstract

The translocation of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) across membranes of two cells is a fundamental biological process occurring in both bacterial conjugation and Agrobacterium pathogenesis. Whereas bacterial conjugation spreads antibiotic resistance, Agrobacterium facilitates efficient interkingdom transfer of ssDNA from its cytoplasm to the host plant cell nucleus. These processes rely on the Type IV secretion system (T4SS), an active multiprotein channel spanning the bacterial inner and outer membranes. T4SSs export specific proteins, among them relaxases, which covalently bind to the 5' end of the translocated ssDNA and mediate ssDNA export. In Agrobacterium tumefaciens, another exported protein-VirE2-enhances ssDNA transfer efficiency 2000-fold. VirE2 binds cooperatively to the transferred ssDNA (T-DNA) and forms a compact helical structure, mediating T-DNA import into the host cell nucleus. We demonstrated-using single-molecule techniques-that by cooperatively binding to ssDNA, VirE2 proteins act as a powerful molecular machine. VirE2 actively pulls ssDNA and is capable of working against 50-pN loads without the need for external energy sources. Combining biochemical and cell biology data, we suggest that, in vivo, VirE2 binding to ssDNA allows an efficient import and pulling of ssDNA into the host. These findings provide a new insight into the ssDNA translocation mechanism from the recipient cell perspective. Efficient translocation only relies on the presence of ssDNA binding proteins in the recipient cell that compacts ssDNA upon binding. This facilitated transfer could hence be a more general ssDNA import mechanism also occurring in bacterial conjugation and DNA uptake processes.

PMID:
18303950
PMCID:
PMC2253637
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pbio.0060044
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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