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J Biol Chem. 2009 May 8;284(19):12989-97. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M900927200. Epub 2009 Mar 5.

Sortase D forms the covalent bond that links BcpB to the tip of Bacillus cereus pili.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Bacillus cereus and other Gram-positive bacteria elaborate pili via a sortase D-catalyzed transpeptidation mechanism from major and minor pilin precursor substrates. After cleavage of the LPXTG sorting signal of the major pilin, BcpA, sortase D forms an amide bond between the C-terminal threonine and the amino group of lysine within the YPKN motif of another BcpA subunit. Pilus assembly terminates upon sortase A cleavage of the BcpA sorting signal, resulting in a covalent bond between BcpA and the cell wall cross-bridge. Here, we show that the IPNTG sorting signal of BcpB, the minor pilin, is cleaved by sortase D but not by sortase A. The C-terminal threonine of BcpB is amide-linked to the YPKN motif of BcpA, thereby positioning BcpB at the tip of pili. Thus, unique attributes of the sorting signals of minor pilins provide Gram-positive bacteria with a universal mechanism ordering assembly of pili.

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