Host Cell Contact-Induced Transcription of the Type IV Fimbria Gene Cluster of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae

B.K.H.L. Boekema, J.P.M. Putten, N. Stockhofe-Zurwieden, H.E. Smith

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    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Type IV pili (Tfp) of gram-negative species share many characteristics, including a common architecture and conserved biogenesis pathway. Much less is known about the regulation of Tfp expression in response to changing environmental conditions. We investigated the diversity of Tfp regulatory systems by searching for the molecular basis of the reported variable expression of the Tfp gene cluster of the pathogen Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae. Despite the presence of an intact Tfp gene cluster consisting of four genes, apfABCD, no Tfp were formed under standard growth conditions. Sequence analysis of the predicted major subunit protein ApfA showed an atypical alanine residue at position -1 from the prepilin peptidase cleavage site in 42 strains. This alanine deviates from the consensus glycine at this position in Tfp from other species. Yet, cloning of the apfABCD genes under a constitutive promoter in A. pleuropneumoniae resulted in pilin and Tfp assembly. Tfp promoter-luxAB reporter gene fusions demonstrated that the Tfp promoter was intact but tightly regulated. Promoter activity varied with bacterial growth phase and was detected only when bacteria were grown in chemically defined medium. Infection experiments with cultured epithelial cells demonstrated that Tfp promoter activity was upregulated upon adherence of the pathogen to primary cultures of lung epithelial cells. Nonadherent bacteria in the culture supernatant exhibited virtually no promoter activity. A similar upregulation of Tfp promoter activity was observed in vivo during experimental infection of pigs. The host cell contact-induced and in vivo-upregulated Tfp promoter activity in A. pleuropneumoniae adds a new dimension to the diversity of Tfp regulation
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)691-700
    JournalInfection and Immunity
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • extracellular protein secretion
    • peptidase n-methyltransferase
    • pilin leader peptidase
    • pseudomonas-aeruginosa
    • neisseria-meningitidis
    • pilus biogenesis
    • epithelial-cells
    • natural transformation
    • haemophilus-influenzae
    • pasteurella-multocida

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