Bactofilins are novel cytoskeleton proteins that are widespread in Gram-negative bacteria. Myxococcus xanthus, an important predatory soil bacterium, possesses four bactofilins of which one, BacM (Mxan-7475) plays an important role in cell shape maintenance. Electron and fluorescence light microscopy, as well as studies using over-expressed, purified BacM, indicate that this protein polymerizes in vivo and in vitro into ~3 nm wide filaments that further associate into higher ordered fibers of about 10 nm. Here we use a multipronged approach combining secondary structure determination, molecular modeling, biochemistry, and genetics to identify and characterize critical molecular elements that enable BacM to polymerize. Our results indicate that the bactofilin-determining domain DUF583 folds into an extended β-sheet structure, and we hypothesize a left-handed β-helix with polymerization into 3 nm filaments primarily via patches of hydrophobic amino acid residues. These patches form the interface allowing head-to-tail polymerization during filament formation. Biochemical analyses of these processes show that folding and polymerization occur across a wide variety of conditions and even in the presence of chaotropic agents such as one molar urea. Together, these data suggest that bactofilins are comprised of a structure unique to cytoskeleton proteins, which enables robust polymerization.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)