Zinc and ATP binding of the hexameric AAA-ATPase PilF from T. thermophilus: Role in complex stability, piliation, adhesion, twitching motility and natural transformation [Microbiology]

September 8th, 2014 by Salzer, R., Herzberg, M., Nies, D. H., Joos, F., Rathmann, B., Thielmann, Y., Averhoff, B.

The traffic AAA-ATPase PilF is essential for pilus biogenesis and natural transformation of Thermus thermophilus HB27. Recently, we showed that PilF forms hexameric complexes containing six zinc atoms coordinated by conserved tetracysteine motifs. Here we report that zinc binding is essential for complex stability. However, zinc binding is neither required for pilus biogenesis nor natural transformation. A number of the mutants did not exhibit any pili during growth at 64°C but still were transformable. This leads to the conclusion that type 4 pili and the DNA translocator are distinct systems. At lower growth temperatures (55°C) the zinc-depleted multiple cysteine mutants were hyperpiliated but defect in pilus-mediated twitching motility. This provides evidence that zinc binding is essential for the role of PilF in pilus dynamics. Moreover, we found that zinc binding is essential for complex stability, but dispensable for ATPase activity. In contrast to many polymerization ATPases from mesophilic bacteria ATP binding is not required for PilF complex formation, however, it significantly increases complex stability. These data suggest that zinc and ATP binding increase complex stability that is important for functionality of PilF under extreme environmental conditions.
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