Pilus biogenesis on the surface of uropathogenic Escherichia coli requires the chaperone/usher pathway, a terminal branch of the general secretory pathway. In this pathway, periplasmic chaperone-subunit complexes target an outer membrane (OM) usher for subunit assembly into pili and secretion to the cell surface. The molecular mechanisms of protein secretion across the OM are not well understood. Mutagenesis of the P pilus usher PapC and the type 1 pilus usher FimD was undertaken to elucidate the initial stages of pilus biogenesis at the OM. Deletion of residues 2 to 11 of the mature PapC N terminus abolished the targeting of the usher by chaperone-subunit complexes and rendered PapC nonfunctional for pilus biogenesis. Similarly, an intact FimD N terminus was required for chaperone-subunit binding and pilus biogenesis. Analysis of PapC-FimD chimeras and N-terminal fragments of PapC localized the chaperone-subunit targeting domain to the first 124 residues of PapC. Single alanine substitution mutations were made in this domain that blocked pilus biogenesis but did not affect targeting of chaperone-subunit complexes. Thus, the usher N terminus does not function simply as a static binding site for chaperone-subunit complexes but also participates in subsequent pilus assembly events.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology