Rôle et mode d’action des pilines mineures des pili de type IV de Neisseria meningitidis

Abstract : Type IV Pili (TFP) are widespread filamentous organelles extending from the surface of many Gram-negative bacteria that mediate multiple functions and play a key role in the pathogenesis of several important human pathogens, including our model, Neisseria meningitidis. The assembly of TFP requires a complex machinery composed by at least twenty proteins that are localized in the inner membrane, the outer membrane and the periplasm. Three of these proteins, called minor pilins, are not required for the biosynthesis of the TFP, but support their functions. Based on the phenotypes associated with the mutants, their role on TFP functions has been determined. The minor pilin Comp is required for natural competence for DNA transformation, PilV is required for the deformation of the host cell plasma membrane and PilX is essential for the adhesion of bacteria to epithelial and endothelial cells, the bacterial aggregation and the deformation of the host cell plasma membrane. Many similarities with the major pilin PilE suggests that minor pilin are inserted into the fiber of TFP to exert their functions, although it has never been demonstrated. How these proteins carry out their functions mechanistically is not elucidated. The general objective of this thesis was to understand how a single fiber can provide such a variety of functions. To achieve this, the study of the mode of action of minor pilins was undertaken. Contrarily to what has been previously proposed, the PilV and PilX minor pilins seem to exert their functions from the periplasmic space to modulate the amount of surface exposed pili. Indeed, pilV and pilX strains show piliation defects of 39 % and 63 % respectively compared to the wild type. Besides, we have shown that TFP functions require a large amount of TFP, at least 40 % for the aggregation and adhesion and 70% to induce the reorganization of the plasma membrane. Thus these modest decreases in the amount of pili explain the phenotypes of these mutants. These results indicate that the minor pilins are involved in the biogenesis of TFP rather than in the direct support of their biochemical properties. Moreover, the piliation defect of these mutants is restored in the absence of retraction, indicating that the PilV and PilX minor pilins play a role in the stability of TFP. To understand how PilV and PilX minor pilins modulate surface exposed pili level, we performed a structure/ function analysis of these two proteins. Blocking the PilV and PilX minor pilins in the inner membrane abolishes piliation, indicating a direct interaction with the machinery of TFP, probably via the major pilin PilE. We have also shown that an interaction between the minor pilins and the major pilin occurs in the inner membrane and upstream of the pilus assembly. However, these results, obtained by biochemical techniques, need to be confirmed by additional controls. By a mutagenesis strategy, we finally demonstrated that the D region of PilV and the α/β and β2/β3 loops of PilX are necessary for their functions. This study has shown that a relatively modest decrease in the amount of pili displayed on the bacterial surface leads to a strong effect on the functions carried by TFP. Minor pilins act in the periplasm to promote the biosynthesis of pili, which highlights the direct role of the major pilin in the TFP-dependent functions.
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Anne-Flore Imhaus. Rôle et mode d’action des pilines mineures des pili de type IV de Neisseria meningitidis. Médecine humaine et pathologie. Université René Descartes - Paris V, 2013. Français. ⟨NNT : 2013PA05T019⟩. ⟨tel-01249528⟩

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