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Electron Transport Chain Is Biochemically Linked to Pilus Assembly Required for Polymicrobial Interactions and Biofilm Formation in the Gram-Positive Actinobacterium Actinomyces oris


The Gram-positive actinobacteria Actinomyces spp. are key colonizers in the development of oral biofilms due to the inherent ability of Actinomyces to adhere to receptor polysaccharides on the surface of oral streptococci and host cells. This receptor-dependent bacterial interaction, or coaggregation, requires a unique sortase-catalyzed pilus consisting of the pilus shaft FimA and the coaggregation factor CafA forming the pilus tip. While the essential role of the sortase machine SrtC2 in pilus assembly, biofilm formation, and coaggregation has been established, little is known about trans-acting factors contributing to these processes. We report here a large-scale Tn5 transposon screen for mutants defective in Actinomyces oris coaggregation with Streptococcus oralis We obtained 33 independent clones, 13 of which completely failed to aggregate with S. oralis, and the remainder of which exhibited a range of phenotypes from severely to weakly defective coaggregation. The former had Tn5 insertions in fimA, cafA, or srtC2, as expected; the latter were mapped to genes coding for uncharacterized proteins and various nuo genes encoding the NADH dehydrogenase subunits. Electron microscopy and biochemical analyses of mutants with nonpolar deletions of nuo genes and ubiE, a menaquinone C-methyltransferase-encoding gene downstream of the nuo locus, confirmed the pilus and coaggregation defects. Both nuoA and ubiE mutants were defective in oxidation of MdbA, the major oxidoreductase required for oxidative folding of pilus proteins. Furthermore, supplementation of the ubiE mutant with exogenous menaquinone-4 rescued the cell growth and pilus defects. Altogether, we propose that the A. oris electron transport chain is biochemically linked to pilus assembly via oxidative protein folding.IMPORTANCE The Gram-positive actinobacterium A. oris expresses adhesive pili, or fimbriae, that are essential to biofilm formation and Actinomyces interactions with other bacteria, termed coaggregation. While the critical role of the conserved sortase machine in pilus assembly and the disulfide bond-forming catalyst MdbA in oxidative folding of pilins has been established, little is known about other trans-acting factors involved in these processes. Using a Tn5 transposon screen for mutants defective in coaggregation with Streptococcus oralis, we found that genetic disruption of the NADH dehydrogenase and menaquinone biosynthesis detrimentally alters pilus assembly. Further biochemical characterizations determined that menaquinone is important for reactivation of MdbA. This study supports the notion that the electron transport chain is biochemically linked to pilus assembly in A. oris via oxidative folding of pilin precursors.

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