Structure of the type IVa major pilin from the electrically conductive bacterial nanowires of geobacter sulfurreducens

Patrick N. Reardon, Karl T. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Several species of δ proteobacteria are capable of reducing insoluble metal oxides as well as other extracellular electron acceptors. These bacteria play a critical role in the cycling of minerals in subsurface environments, sediments, and groundwater. In some species of bacteria such as Geobacter sulfurreducens, the transport of electrons is proposed to be facilitated by filamentous fibers that are referred to as bacterial nanowires. These nanowires are polymeric assemblies of proteins belonging to the type IVa family of pilin proteins and are mainly comprised of one subunit protein, PilA. Here, we report the high resolution solution NMR structure of the PilA protein from G. sulfurreducens determined in detergent micelles. The protein is >85% α-helical and exhibits similar architecture to the N-terminal regions of other non-conductive type IVa pilins. The detergent micelle interacts with the first 21 amino acids of the protein, indicating that this region likely associates with the bacterial inner membrane prior to fiber formation. A model of the G. sulfurreducens pilus fiber is proposed based on docking of this structure into the fiber model of the type IVa pilin from Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This model provides insight into the organization of aromatic amino acids that are important for electrical conduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29260-29266
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 11 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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