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Trends Microbiol. 2015 Dec;23(12):775-788. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2015.09.002. Epub 2015 Oct 22.

How Bacteria Use Type IV Pili Machinery on Surfaces.

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Department of Physics, University of Cologne, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Köln, Germany. Electronic address:
Department of Bioengineering, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, California Nano Systems Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1600, USA.


The bacterial type IV pilus (T4P) is a versatile molecular machine with a broad range of functions. Recent advances revealed that the molecular components and the biophysical properties of the machine are well conserved among phylogenetically distant bacterial species. However, its functions are diverse, and include adhesion, motility, and horizontal gene transfer. This review focusses on the role of T4P in surface motility and bacterial interactions. Different species have evolved distinct mechanisms for intracellular coordination of multiple pili and of pili with other motility machines, ranging from physical coordination to biochemical clocks. Coordinated behavior between multiple bacteria on a surface is achieved by active manipulation of surfaces and modulation of pilus-pilus interactions. An emerging picture is that the T4P actively senses and responds to environmental conditions.


EPS; molecular force; molecular machine; twitching motility

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