Bridging Bacteria and the Gut: Functional Aspects of Type IV Pili

Kate Ligthart, Clara Belzer, Willem M. de Vos, Hanne L.P. Tytgat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Cell-surface-located proteinaceous appendages, such as flagella and fimbriae or pili, are ubiquitous in bacterial communities. Here, we focus on conserved type IV pili (T4P) produced by bacteria in the intestinal tract, one of the most densely populated human ecosystems. Computational analysis revealed that approximately 30% of known intestinal bacteria are predicted to produce T4P. To rationalize how T4P allow intestinal bacteria to interact with their environment, other microbiota members, and host cells, we review their established role in gut commensals and pathogens with respect to adherence, motility, and biofilm formation, as well as protein secretion and DNA uptake. This work indicates that T4P are widely spread among the known members of the intestinal microbiota and that their contribution to human health might be underestimated.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number5
Early online date1 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • commensal
  • fimbriae
  • microbiome
  • microbiota–host interactions
  • pathogen
  • type IV pili


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