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J Bacteriol. 2013 Oct;195(19):4484-95. doi: 10.1128/JB.00451-13. Epub 2013 Aug 2.

Pilin and sortase residues critical for endocarditis- and biofilm-associated pilus biogenesis in Enterococcus faecalis.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Center for Women's Infectious Disease Research, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.


Enterococci commonly cause hospital-acquired infections, such as infective endocarditis and catheter-associated urinary tract infections. In animal models of these infections, a long hairlike extracellular protein fiber known as the endocarditis- and biofilm-associated (Ebp) pilus is an important virulence factor for Enterococcus faecalis. For Ebp and other sortase-assembled pili, the pilus-associated sortases are essential for fiber formation as they create covalent isopeptide bonds between the sortase recognition motif and the pilin-like motif of the pilus subunits. However, the molecular requirements governing the incorporation of the three pilus subunits (EbpA, EbpB, and EbpC) have not been investigated in E. faecalis. Here, we show that a Lys residue within the pilin-like motif of the EbpC subunit was necessary for EbpC polymerization. However, incorporation of EbpA into the pilus fiber only required its sortase recognition motif (LPXTG), while incorporation of EbpB only required its pilin-like motif. Only the sortase recognition motif would be required for incorporation of the pilus tip subunit, while incorporation of the base subunit would only require the pilin recognition motif. Thus, these data support a model with EbpA at the tip and EbpB at the base of an EbpC polymer. In addition, the housekeeping sortase, SrtA, was found to process EbpB and its predicted catalytic Cys residue was required for efficient cell wall anchoring of mature Ebp pili. Thus, we have defined molecular interactions involved in fiber polymerization, minor subunit organization, and pilus subcellular compartmentalization in the E. faecalis Ebp pilus system. These studies advance our understanding of unique molecular mechanisms of sortase-assembled pilus biogenesis.

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