Type IV Pili-Related Natural Transformation Systems: DNA Transport in Mesophilic and Thermophilic Bacteria

Arch Microbiol. 2003 Dec;180(6):385-93. doi: 10.1007/s00203-003-0616-6. Epub 2003 Oct 31.


Horizontal gene flow is a driving force for bacterial adaptation. Among the three distinct mechanisms of gene transfer in bacteria, conjugation, transduction, and transformation, the latter, which includes competence induction, DNA binding, and DNA uptake, is perhaps the most versatile mechanism and allows the incorporation of free DNA from diverse bacterial species. Here we review DNA transport machineries mediating uptake of naked DNA in gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Different putative models of transformation machineries comprising components similar to proteins of type IV pili are presented. Emphasis is placed on a comparative discussion of the underlying mechanisms of DNA transfer in mesophilic and extremely thermophilic bacteria, highlighting conserved and distinctive features of these transformation machineries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Biological Transport
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Fimbriae Proteins / genetics
  • Fimbriae Proteins / physiology
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Transformation, Bacterial*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Fimbriae Proteins