Molecular Analysis of Type IV Pilus Assembly in Clostridium perfringens

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Virginia Tech


Clostridium perfringens is a Gram-positive anaerobe capable of causing disease in humans and many animals. C. perfringens is able to move across surfaces in a manner that is dependent on growth and type IV pili.

Type IV pili are filaments that can be extended away from the cell by rapid polymerization, and retracted by depolymerization. Furthering the understanding of the initial and final energetic states of the pilins will reveal insights into possible mechanisms of type IV pilus assembly. Toward that end, a pilin was purified from the Gram-negative pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and incorporated into an artificial membrane. The pilin was probed by a solid state nuclear magnetic resonance (ssNMR) technique that can determine the angle and depth of insertion of a helical peptide, as well as fluorescent and electron microscopy.

All type IV pilus systems involve the action of an assembly ATPase to provide energy to polymerize the pilus. One proposed mechanism involves two primary proteins: an ATPase and an integral membrane core protein (IMCP). Other type IV pilus proteins are thought to play supportive roles in aiding the traversal of the cell envelope. In order to evaluate this model, the assembly ATPase PilB2 and IMCP PilC2 from C. perfringens were purified and examined for interactions. The evidence presented here suggest that PilB2 and PilC2 do not interact directly, and cannot function as a core assembly apparatus.

The carbonic anhydrase (Cpb) from C. perfringens strain 13 was characterized both biochemically and physiologically. Cpb belongs to the type I subclass of the β class and is the first β class enzyme investigated from a strictly anaerobic bacteria. Kinetic analyses revealed a two-step, pingpong, zinc-hydroxide mechanism of catalysis. Analyses of a cpb deletion mutant of C. perfringens strain HN13 showed that Cpb is strictly required for growth when cultured in semi-defined medium and an atmosphere without CO₂. The grew well in nutrient-rich media with or without CO₂ in the atmosphere, although elimination of glucose resulted in decreased production of acetate, propionate, and butyrate. The results suggest a role for Cpb in anaplerotic CO₂ fixation reactions by supplying bicarbonate to carboxylases.



Type IV Pili, Clostridium perfringens