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Protein Sci. 2017 Aug;26(8):1458-1473. doi: 10.1002/pro.3191. Epub 2017 May 15.

Pilus biogenesis of Gram-positive bacteria: Roles of sortases and implications for assembly.

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Center for Structural Biology, School of Optometry, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA.


Successful adherence, colonization, and survival of Gram-positive bacteria require surface proteins, and multiprotein assemblies called pili. These surface appendages are attractive pharmacotherapeutic targets and understanding their assembly mechanisms is essential for identifying a new class of 'anti-infectives' that do not elicit microbial resistance. Molecular details of the Gram-negative pilus assembly are available indepth, but the Gram-positive pilus biogenesis is still an emerging field and investigations continue to reveal novel insights into this process. Pilus biogenesis in Gram-positive bacteria is a biphasic process that requires enzymes called pilus-sortases for assembly and a housekeeping sortase for covalent attachment of the assembled pilus to the peptidoglycan cell wall. Emerging structural and functional data indicate that there are at least two groups of Gram-positive pili, which require either the Class C sortase or Class B sortase in conjunction with LepA/SipA protein for major pilin polymerization. This observation suggests two distinct modes of sortase-mediated pilus biogenesis in Gram-positive bacteria. Here we review the structural and functional biology of the pilus-sortases from select streptococcal pilus systems and their role in Gram-positive pilus assembly.


Gram-positive pili; pilins; pilus biogenesis; sortase

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