Enterococcus faecalis PrgJ, a VirB4-Like ATPase, Mediates pCF10 conjugative transfer through substrate binding

Feng Li, Cristina Alvarez-Martinez, Yuqing Chen, Kyoung Jae Choi, Hye Jeong Yeo, Peter J. Christie

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38 Scopus citations


The Enterococcus faecalis prg and pcf genes of plasmid pCF10 encode a type IV secretion system (T4SS) required for conjugative transfer. PrgJ is a member of the VirB4 family of ATPases that are universally associated with T4SSs. Here, we report that purified PrgJ dimers displayed ATP binding and hydrolysis activities. A PrgJ nucleoside triphosphate (NTP) binding site mutation (K471E) slightly diminished ATP binding but abolished ATP hydrolysis in vitro and blocked pCF10 transfer in vivo. As shown with affinity pulldown assays, PrgJ and the K471E mutant protein interacted with the substrate receptor PcfC and with relaxase PcfG and accessory factor PcfF, which together form the relaxosome at the oriT sequence to initiate plasmid processing. The purified PrgJ and K471E proteins also bound single- and double-stranded DNA substrates without sequence specificity in vitro, and both PrgJ derivatives bound pCF10 in vivo by a mechanism dependent on an intact oriT sequence and cosynthesis of PcfC, PcfF, and PcfG, as shown by a formaldehyde-cross-linking assay. Our findings support a model in which the PcfC receptor coordinates with the PrgJ ATPase to drive early steps of pCF10 processing/transfer: (i) PcfC first binds the pCF10 relaxosome through contacts with PcfF, PcfG, and DNA; (ii) PcfC delivers the plasmid substrate to PrgJ; and (iii) PrgJ catalyzes substrate transfer to the membrane translocase. Substrate engagement with a VirB4-like subunit has not been previously described; consequently, our studies point to a novel function for these signature T4SS ATPases in mediating early steps of type IV secretion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4041-4051
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2012


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