Molecular analyses of the natural transformation machinery and identification of pilus structures in the extremely thermophilic bacterium Thermus thermophilus strain HB27

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Feb;68(2):745-55. doi: 10.1128/AEM.68.2.745-755.2002.


Thermus thermophilus HB27, an extremely thermophilic bacterium, exhibits high competence for natural transformation. To identify genes of the natural transformation machinery of T. thermophilus HB27, we performed homology searches in the partially completed T. thermophilus genomic sequence for conserved competence genes. These analyses resulted in the detection of 28 open reading frames (ORFs) exhibiting significant similarities to known competence proteins of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Disruption of 15 selected potential competence genes led to the identification of 8 noncompetent mutants and one transformation-deficient mutant with a 100-fold reduced transformation frequency. One competence protein is similar to DprA of Haemophilus influenzae, seven are similar to type IV pilus proteins of Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Neisseria gonorrhoeae (PilM, PilN, PilO, PilQ, PilF, PilC, PilD), and another deduced protein (PilW) is similar to a protein of unknown function in Deinococcus radiodurans R1. Analysis of the piliation phenotype of T. thermophilus HB27 revealed the presence of single pilus structures on the surface of the wild-type cells, whereas the noncompetent pil mutants of Thermus, with the exception of the pilF mutant, were devoid of pilus structures. These results suggest that pili and natural transformation in T. thermophilus HB27 are functionally linked.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / genetics
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / ultrastructure
  • Gene Deletion
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Temperature*
  • Thermus thermophilus / genetics*
  • Thermus thermophilus / growth & development
  • Thermus thermophilus / metabolism
  • Thermus thermophilus / ultrastructure
  • Transformation, Bacterial*

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF436067
  • GENBANK/AF436068
  • GENBANK/AF436069
  • GENBANK/AF436070
  • GENBANK/AF439555