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J Innate Immun. 2014;6(2):227-39. doi: 10.1159/000354304. Epub 2013 Sep 25.

Type IV pilus of Pseudomonas aeruginosa confers resistance to antimicrobial activities of the pulmonary surfactant protein-A.

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Department of Pathobiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Ill., USA.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa(PA) is a Gram-negative bacterial pathogen commonly associated with chronic lung infections. Previously, we have identified several PA virulence factors that are important for resistance to the surfactant protein-A (SP-A), a pulmonary innate immunity protein that mediates bacterial opsonization and membrane permeabilization. In this study, we demonstrate that the type IV pilus (Tfp) is important in the resistance of PA to the antibacterial effects of SP-A. The Tfp-deficient mutant ΔpilA is severely attenuated in an acute pneumonia model of infection in the lungs of wild-type mice, but is virulent in the lungs of SP-A(-/-) mice. The ΔpilA bacteria are more susceptible to SP-A-mediated aggregation and opsonization. In addition, the integrity of the outer membranes of ΔpilA bacteria is compromised, rendering them more susceptible to SP-A-mediated membrane permeabilization. By comparing Tfp extension and retraction mutants, we demonstrate that the increased susceptibility of ΔpilA to SP-A-mediated opsonization requires the total absence of Tfp from PA cells. Finally, we provide evidence of increased expression of nonpilus adhesin OprH that may serve as an SP-A ligand, resulting in increased phagocytosis and preferential pulmonary clearance of ΔpilA.

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