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"Type IV pili: A multi-scale system for understanding the physical world of bacteria"

Dr. Courtney Ellison
Dr. Courtney Ellison
Department of Molecular Biology
Princeton University
Online via Zoom
Special Information:
Please contact Nancy Perkins at for Zoom link and passcode
Type of Event:
Department Seminars


Bacteria use extracellular appendages called type IV pili (T4P) for diverse behaviors including DNA uptake, surface sensing, virulence, protein secretion, and biofilm formation. Dynamic extension and retraction of T4P is essential for their function in these behaviors, yet little is known about the molecular mechanisms controlling these dynamics. Furthermore, due to difficulties in visualizing T4P in live cells, their exact function in many of these processes has remained unclear. Through the development of a labeling method to visualize T4P in live cells in real time, our work has addressed multiple outstanding questions related to T4P biology. Using this labeling method, we defined the mechanism by which individual cells use T4P to take up DNA during natural transformation. We furthermore developed the highly naturally transformable species Acinetobacter baylyi as a new model to dissect the molecular mechanisms of T4P dynamics and T4P localization, with implications for how these structures may contribute to multicellular interactions. This work provides insight into the mechanisms that govern diverse microbial behaviors important for bacterial physiology through direct observation of the T4P appendages that mediate them.

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