Date of this Version
Structure. 2015 February 3; 23(2): 385–396. doi:10.1016/j.str.2014.11.018.
Type IV pili are produced by many pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria and are important for processes as diverse as twitching motility, biofilm formation, cellular adhesion and horizontal gene transfer. However, many Gram-positive species, including C. difficile, also produce Type IV pili. Here, we identify the major subunit of the Type IV pili of C. difficile, PilA1, and describe multiple three-dimensional structures of PilA1, demonstrating the diversity found in three strains of C. difficile. We also model the incorporation of both PilA1 and a minor pilin, PilJ, into the pilus fiber. Although PilA1 contains no cysteine residues, and therefore cannot form the disulfide bonds found in all Gram-negative Type IV pilins, it adopts unique strategies to achieve a typical pilin fold. The structures of PilA1 and PilJ exhibit similarities with the Type IVb pilins from Gram-negative bacteria that suggest that the Type IV pili of C. difficile are involved in microcolony formation.