The relevance of pilus-related genes to motility, pilus structure on the cell surface and competency of natural transformation was studied by gene disruption analysis in the unicellular motile cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. The genes disrupted in this study were chosen as related to the pil genes for biogenesis of the type IV pili in a Gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. It was found that motility of Synechocystis cells was lost in the mutants of slr0063, slr1274, slr1275, slr1276, slr1277 and sll1694 together with a simultaneous loss of the thick pili on the cell surface. Competency of the natural transformation was lost in the mutants listed above and slr0197-disruptant. The gene slr0197 was previously predicted as a competence gene by a search with sequence-independent DNA-binding structure [Yura et al. (1999) DNA Res. 6: 75]. It was suggested that both DNA uptake for natural transformation and motility are mediated by a specific type IV-like pilus structure, while a putative DNA-binding protein encoded by slr0197 is additionally required for the DNA uptake. Based on the homology with the pil genes in P. aeruginosa, slr0063, slr1274, slr1275, slr1276, slr1277 and sll1694 were designated pilB1, pilM, pilN, pilO, pilQ and pilA1, respectively. The gene slr0197 was designated comA.
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