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Infect Immun. 2005 Dec;73(12):7922-31.

Influence of pilin glycosylation on Pseudomonas aeruginosa 1244 pilus function.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA.


The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a leading cause of nosocomial pneumonia. Among its virulence factors, the type IV pili of P. aeruginosa strain 1244 contain a covalently linked, three-sugar glycan of previously unknown significance. The work described in this paper was carried out to determine the influence of the P. aeruginosa 1244 pilin glycan on pilus function, as well as a possible role in pathogenesis. To accomplish this, a deletion was introduced into the pilO gene of this organism. The isogenic knockout strain produced, 1244G7, was unable to glycosylate pilin but could produce pili normal in appearance and quantity. In addition, this strain had somewhat reduced twitching motility, was sensitive to pilus-specific bacteriophages, and could form a normal biofilm. Analysis of whole cells and isolated pili from wild-type P. aeruginosa strain 1244 by transmission electron microscopy with a glycan-specific immunogold label showed that this saccharide was distributed evenly over the fiber surface. The presence of the pilin glycan reduced the hydrophobicity of purified pili as well as whole cells. With regard to pathogenicity, P. aeruginosa strains producing glycosylated pili were commonly found among clinical isolates and particularly among those strains isolated from sputum. Competition index analysis using a mouse respiratory model comparing strains 1244 and 1244G7 indicated that the presence of the pilin glycan allowed for significantly greater survival in the lung environment. These results collectively suggest that the pilin glycan is a significant virulence factor and may aid in the establishment of infection.

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