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Science 331 (6018): 778-782

Copyright © 2011 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Posttranslational Modification of Pili upon Cell Contact Triggers N. meningitidis Dissemination

Julia Chamot-Rooke,1,2 Guillain Mikaty,3,4 Christian Malosse,1,2 Magali Soyer,4,5 Audrey Dumont,4,5 Joseph Gault,1,2 Anne-Flore Imhaus,4,5 Patricia Martin,3,4 Mikael Trellet,6 Guilhem Clary,4,7,8 Philippe Chafey,4,7,8 Luc Camoin,4,7,8 Michael Nilges,6 Xavier Nassif,3,4,9 Guillaume Duménil4,5,*

Abstract: The Gram-negative bacterium Neisseria meningitidis asymptomatically colonizes the throat of 10 to 30% of the human population, but throat colonization can also act as the port of entry to the blood (septicemia) and then the brain (meningitis). Colonization is mediated by filamentous organelles referred to as type IV pili, which allow the formation of bacterial aggregates associated with host cells. We found that proliferation of N. meningitidis in contact with host cells increased the transcription of a bacterial gene encoding a transferase that adds phosphoglycerol onto type IV pili. This unusual posttranslational modification specifically released type IV pili-dependent contacts between bacteria. In turn, this regulated detachment process allowed propagation of the bacterium to new colonization sites and also migration across the epithelium, a prerequisite for dissemination and invasive disease.

1 Ecole Polytechnique, Laboratoire des Mécanismes Réactionnels, Palaiseau F-91128, France.
2 CNRS, UMR7651, Palaiseau F-91128, France.
3 INSERM, U1002, Paris F-75015, France.
4 Université Paris Descartes, Faculté de Médecine Paris Descartes, Paris F-75006, France.
5 INSERM, U970, Paris Cardiovascular Research Center, Paris F-75015, France.
6 Unité de Bioinformatique Structurale, Unité de Recherche Associée CNRS 2185, Institut Pasteur, Paris F-75015, France.
7 Institut Cochin, CNRS (UMR 8104), Paris F-75014, France.
8 INSERM, U1016, Paris F-75014, France.
9 Assistance Publique–Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpital Necker–Enfants Malades, Paris F-75015, France.

* To whom correspondance should be addressed. E-mail: guillaume.dumenil{at}

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