The VirB proteins of Agrobacterium tumefaciens form a transport pore to transfer DNA from bacteria to plants. The assembly of the transport pore will require interaction among the constituent proteins. The identification of proteins that interact with one another can provide clues to the assembly of the transport pore. We studied interaction among four putative transport pore proteins, VirB7, VirB8, VirB9 and VirB10. Using the yeast two-hybrid assay, we observed that VirB8, VirB9, and VirB10 interact with one another. In vitro studies using protein fusions demonstrated that VirB10 interacts with VirB9 and itself. These results suggest that the outer membrane VirB7-VirB9 complex interacts with the inner membrane proteins VirB8 and VirB10 for the assembly of the transport pore. Fusions that contain small, defined segments of the proteins were used to define the interaction domains of VirB8 and VirB9. All interaction domains of both proteins mapped to the N-terminal half of the proteins. Two separate domains at the N- and C-terminal ends of VirB9 are involved in its homotypic interaction, suggesting that VirB9 forms a higher oligomer. We observed that the alteration of serine at position 87 of VirB8 to leucine abolished its DNA transfer function. Studies on the interaction of the mutant protein with the other VirB proteins showed that the VirB8S87L mutant is defective in interaction with VirB9. The mutant, however, interacted efficiently with VirB8 and VirB10, suggesting that the VirB8-VirB9 interaction is essential for DNA transfer.
Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.