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Trends Microbiol. 2010 May;18(5):224-32. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2010.03.002. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

A tale of two pili: assembly and function of pili in bacteria.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Bacterial pili have long been recognized as mediators of initial host-pathogen interactions important for the progression of Gram-negative bacterial diseases. An appreciation of the role of pili on virulence in Gram-positive bacteria and the unique properties of their biogenesis is a rapidly emerging area of research. In this review, we focus on recent advances in one of the longest-studied Gram-negative pilus systems, the chaperone/usher assembled pili, along with the newcomer to the field, the sortase-assembled pili of Gram-positive bacteria. In both systems, a wealth of new structural and molecular details has emerged recently. In light of this, we explore similarities between chaperone/usher and sortase-assembled pilus biogenesis and highlight paradigms unique to each, with the goal of using knowledge of each system to raise new questions and inform future studies of the other.

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