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Gene Review

pilA  -  type 4 fimbrial PilA

Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1

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Disease relevance of pilA

  • Pseudomonas stutzeri has two closely related pilA genes (Type IV pilus structural protein) with opposite influences on natural genetic transformation [1].
  • Heterologous expression of the P. syringae pilA in P. aeruginosa was also shown, conferring not only phi 6 phage sensitivity to P. aeruginosa pilA mutants but also sensitivity to PO4, a lytic bacteriophage specific for the pilus of P. aeruginosa [2].
  • Gene fusions were made between amino-terminal coding sequences of the cloned pilin gene (pilA) and the structural gene for Escherichia coli alkaline phosphatase (phoA) devoid of a signal sequence [3].
  • Hypertransformation also occurred in pilAI pilAII double mutants expressing heterologous pilA genes of nontransformable bacteria, like Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Dichelobacter nodosus [1].

High impact information on pilA

  • Examination of pilA and fliM mutant strains further supported the role of swarming motility in biofilm formation [4].
  • The role of PilA in the GSP was examined, using P. aeruginosa mutants in the pilA gene, or in rpoN, a gene regulating pilA expression [5].
  • Mutations within pilR and pilA that have no polar effect were demonstrated to be responsible for pilus and social motility defects [6].
  • Like pilT mutants, the pilU mutants were hyperfimbriate, but in neither case was this associated with an increase in transcription of the fimbrial subunit gene pilA [7].
  • These genes were shown to be capable of complementing the corresponding mutants, both at the level of restoring the phenotypes associated with functional fimbriae and by the restoration of pilA transcription [8].

Chemical compound and disease context of pilA

  • All known pilin sequences in Pseudomonas aeruginosa were amplified by a set of consensus primers located in the 5"-conserved region of pilA and the threonine-specific t-RNA following pilA [9].

Biological context of pilA

  • SPR revealed differences in the kinetics of attachment between pilA and pilT, differences obscured by endpoint assays using crystal violet stain [10].
  • The V. vulnificus pilA gene is part of an operon and is clustered with three other pilus biogenesis genes, pilBCD [11].
  • Inactivation of pilA reduces the ability of V. vulnificus to form biofilms and significantly decreases adherence to HEp-2 cells and virulence in iron dextran-treated mice [11].
  • DNA sequences capable of initiating transcription when fused to a promoterless lacZ gene have been identified in the pilA-pilB and pilB-pilC intergenic regions [12].
  • This was confirmed by sequencing a region from this plasmid that was shown to hybridize at low stringency to the P. aeruginosa pilA gene [2].

Anatomical context of pilA

  • Nutrient-induced biofilm dispersion was associated with increased expression of flagella (fliC) and correspondingly decreased expression of pilus (pilA) genes in dispersed cells [13].
  • As expected, the pilA mutant demonstrated reduced association and invasion of corneal epithelial cells (P < 0.05 in both cases) [14].
  • The rates of cleavage were compared for purified enzyme and substrate as well as for enzyme and substrate contained within total membranes extracted from P. aeruginosa strains overexpressing the cloned pilD or pilA genes [15].

Associations of pilA with chemical compounds

  • The amounts of (3)H-labeled P. stutzeri DNA that were bound to competent parental cells and taken up were strongly reduced in the pilC and pilA mutants [16].

Other interactions of pilA

  • The pilA (the pilin structural gene), pilR (a pilin regulatory gene), and rpoN (encoding another minor sigma factor of RNA polymerase) genes map together at 71 to 75 min, locations correcting the previously reported values (V. Shortridge, M. Pato, A. Vasil, and M. Vasil, Infect. Immun. 59:3596-3603, 1990) [17].
  • Southern blot analysis demonstrates the widespread presence of both pilA and pilD in clinical as well as environmental strains of V. vulnificus [11].
  • One pil locus, designated pilE, resides at approx. 71 min on the PAO genetic map, a region of the chromosome previously shown to harbor a number of genes required for pilus assembly (i.e., pilA, -B, -C, -D, -R and -S) [18].
  • A 2200 base mRNA strand, which contained both the pilO and pilA transcripts, was produced from this region, while a 650 base transcript containing only pilA was present in a 100-fold excess over the longer transcript [19].
  • Restriction mapping uncovered an 8.9 kb deletion of PAO sequence between phnAB and oprL in clone K, and two 106 kb insertions either adjacent to this deletion or several hundred kilobases away, close to the pilA locus [20].


  1. Pseudomonas stutzeri has two closely related pilA genes (Type IV pilus structural protein) with opposite influences on natural genetic transformation. Graupner, S., Wackernagel, W. J. Bacteriol. (2001) [Pubmed]
  2. Characterization of type IV pilus genes in Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000. Roine, E., Raineri, D.M., Romantschuk, M., Wilson, M., Nunn, D.N. Mol. Plant Microbe Interact. (1998) [Pubmed]
  3. Mapping of export signals of Pseudomonas aeruginosa pilin with alkaline phosphatase fusions. Strom, M.S., Lory, S. J. Bacteriol. (1987) [Pubmed]
  4. The impact of quorum sensing and swarming motility on Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm formation is nutritionally conditional. Shrout, J.D., Chopp, D.L., Just, C.L., Hentzer, M., Givskov, M., Parsek, M.R. Mol. Microbiol. (2006) [Pubmed]
  5. Interactions of the components of the general secretion pathway: role of Pseudomonas aeruginosa type IV pilin subunits in complex formation and extracellular protein secretion. Lu, H.M., Motley, S.T., Lory, S. Mol. Microbiol. (1997) [Pubmed]
  6. Genetic and functional evidence that Type IV pili are required for social gliding motility in Myxococcus xanthus. Wu, S.S., Kaiser, D. Mol. Microbiol. (1995) [Pubmed]
  7. Characterization of a gene, pilU, required for twitching motility but not phage sensitivity in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Whitchurch, C.B., Mattick, J.S. Mol. Microbiol. (1994) [Pubmed]
  8. PilS and PilR, a two-component transcriptional regulatory system controlling expression of type 4 fimbriae in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Hobbs, M., Collie, E.S., Free, P.D., Livingston, S.P., Mattick, J.S. Mol. Microbiol. (1993) [Pubmed]
  9. Comparison of type IV-pilin genes of Pseudomonas aeruginosa of various habitats has uncovered a novel unusual sequence. Spangenberg, C., Fislage, R., Sierralta, W., Tümmler, B., Römling, U. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. (1995) [Pubmed]
  10. Surface plasmon resonance shows that type IV pili are important in surface attachment by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Jenkins, A.T., Buckling, A., McGhee, M., ffrench-Constant, R.H. Journal of the Royal Society, Interface [electronic resource] / the Royal Society. (2005) [Pubmed]
  11. A Vibrio vulnificus type IV pilin contributes to biofilm formation, adherence to epithelial cells, and virulence. Paranjpye, R.N., Strom, M.S. Infect. Immun. (2005) [Pubmed]
  12. Genetic and functional characterization of the gene cluster specifying expression of Pseudomonas aeruginosa pili. Koga, T., Ishimoto, K., Lory, S. Infect. Immun. (1993) [Pubmed]
  13. Characterization of nutrient-induced dispersion in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 biofilm. Sauer, K., Cullen, M.C., Rickard, A.H., Zeef, L.A., Davies, D.G., Gilbert, P. J. Bacteriol. (2004) [Pubmed]
  14. Twitching motility contributes to the role of pili in corneal infection caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Zolfaghar, I., Evans, D.J., Fleiszig, S.M. Infect. Immun. (2003) [Pubmed]
  15. Kinetics and sequence specificity of processing of prepilin by PilD, the type IV leader peptidase of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Strom, M.S., Lory, S. J. Bacteriol. (1992) [Pubmed]
  16. Type IV pilus genes pilA and pilC of Pseudomonas stutzeri are required for natural genetic transformation, and pilA can be replaced by corresponding genes from nontransformable species. Graupner, S., Frey, V., Hashemi, R., Lorenz, M.G., Brandes, G., Wackernagel, W. J. Bacteriol. (2000) [Pubmed]
  17. Localization of the virulence-associated genes pilA, pilR, rpoN, fliA, fliC, ent, and fbp on the physical map of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 by pulsed-field electrophoresis. Farinha, M.A., Ronald, S.L., Kropinski, A.M., Paranchych, W. Infect. Immun. (1993) [Pubmed]
  18. Molecular genetic analysis of type-4 pilus biogenesis and twitching motility using Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a model system--a review. Darzins, A., Russell, M.A. Gene (1997) [Pubmed]
  19. pilO, a gene required for glycosylation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa 1244 pilin. Castric, P. Microbiology (Reading, Engl.) (1995) [Pubmed]
  20. Monitoring genome evolution ex vivo: reversible chromosomal integration of a 106 kb plasmid at two tRNA(Lys) gene loci in sequential Pseudomonas aeruginosa airway isolates. Kiewitz, C., Larbig, K., Klockgether, J., Weinel, C., Tümmler, B. Microbiology (Reading, Engl.) (2000) [Pubmed]
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