Twitching motility in Legionella pneumophila
Twitching motility is a form of bacterial translocation over solid or semi-solid surfaces mediated by the extension, tethering, and subsequent retraction of type IV pili. These pili are also known to be involved in virulence, biofilm formation, formation of fruiting bodies, horizontal gene transfer, and protein secretion. We have characterized the presence of twitching motility on agar plates in Legionella pneumophila, the etiological agent of Legionnaires' disease. By examining twitching motility zones, we have demonstrated that twitching motility was dependent on agar thickness/concentration, the chemical composition of the media, the presence of charcoal and cysteine, proximity to other bacteria, and temperature. A knockout mutant of the pilus subunit, pilE, exhibited a total loss of twitching motility at 37 degrees C, but not at 27 degrees C, suggesting either the existence of a compensating pilus subunit or of another twitching motility system in this organism.