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Title: Structural characterization of type IV pilus biogenesis proteins
Author: Berry, Jamie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2729 7916
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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Type IV pili, or fimbriae, are long, thin proteinaceous appendages found on the surface of many well-known pathogens. They mediate a variety of important virulence functions for the organism, such as twitching motility, biofilm formation, uptake of genetic material and host cell recognition and adhesion. Pili are formed by the rapid polymerization and de-polymerization of the pilin subunit, and this is orchestrated by a complex macromolecular machine which spans the bacterial cell envelope, requiring a variety of gene products. The type IV pilus biogenesis system is closely related to the bacterial type II secretion system, one of six designated multi-protein cell envelope complexes which are dedicated to the specific secretion of exotoxins and virulence factors. Many of these secretion systems also produce fimbrial structures to facilitate the extrusion of their substrates or to communicate with the host. As they form crucial virulence factors, the secretion systems and the type IV pilus biogenesis system have become attractive potential antimicrobial targets and obtaining structural and functional information for the components of these systems is an important first step towards achieving this.Type IV pili appear on the surface of bacteria through an outer membrane pore, PilQ, which is a member of the secretin family. Secretins are also found in the type II and III secretion systems, but the way in which they are regulated remains unclear. PilQ forms a dodecameric chamber in the outer membrane with a large vestibule which reaches into the periplasm, composed of its N-terminal domains. In this project, N-terminal domains from PilQ were produced in recombinant form and their structures determined by NMR. One of these domains revealed an eight-stranded beta-sandwich structure which appears to be unique to type IV pilus secretins and has not been structurally characterized before. Another revealed an alpha/beta type fold which is common to secretins of other systems. In the second part of this project, the interaction formed between the N-terminal alpha/beta domains of PilQ and an essential inner membrane-anchored lipoprotein, PilP, was probed by NMR chemical shift perturbation. Based on changes to the 15N-HSQC spectra the binding site was mapped onto each protein to produce a computational model for the complex formed between the two. Using a recent cryo-EM structure for the Neisseria PilQ dodecamer determined by colleagues, it was possible to model the PilQ N-terminal domains in complex with PilP into the electron density map. This produced a model for the trans-periplasmic assembly formed by PilQ and PilP in the type IV pilus biogenesis system, and led to the conclusion that the PilQ dodecamer needs to disassemble considerably at the base to accommodate a pilus fibre. The novel beta-domains might therefore function to gate or open the secretin, and PilP may play a role in stabilizing the secretin during this and serve to connect the outer and inner membrane system components.
Supervisor: Derrick, Jeremy; Cavet, Jennifer Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: type IV pili ; secretin ; crystallography ; NMR