Type IV pili and cell motility

Mol Microbiol. 1999 Apr;32(1):1-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1999.01339.x.


Type IV pili (Tfp) mediate the movement of bacteria over surfaces without the use of flagella. These movements are known as social gliding in Myxococcus xanthus and twitching in organisms such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Tfp are localized polarly. Type IV pilins have a signature N-terminal domain, which forms a coiled-coil with other monomer units to polymerize a pilus fibre. At least 10 more proteins at the base of the fibre are conserved; they are related to the type II secretion system. Movements produced by Tfp range from short, jerky displacements to lengthy, smooth ones. Tfp also participate in cell-cell interactions, pathogenesis, biofilm formation, natural DNA uptake, auto-aggregation of cells and development. What is the means by which Tfp bring about the movement of cells?

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Chemotaxis / physiology
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Motor Proteins*
  • Movement
  • Myxococcus xanthus / physiology
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / physiology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / physiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases