Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 23116627
Res. Microbiol. 2012 Nov-Dec;163(9-10):645-58
In the last decade, pili, which are encoded within pathogenicity islands, have been found in many Gram-positive bacteria, including the major streptococcal and enterococcal pathogens. These long proteinaceous polymers extending from the bacterial surface are constituted of covalently linked pilin subunits, which play major roles in adhesion and host colonization. They are also involved in biofilm formation, a characteristic life-style of the bacteria constituting the oral flora. Pili are highly immunogenic structures that are under the selective pressure of host immune responses. Indeed, pilus expression was found to be heterogeneous in several bacteria with the co-existence of two subpopulations expressing various levels of pili. The molecular mechanisms underlying this complex regulation are poorly characterized except for Streptococcus pneumoniae. In this review, we will discuss the roles of Gram-positive bacteria pili in adhesion to host extracellular matrix proteins, tissue tropism, biofilm formation, modulation of innate immune responses and their contribution to virulence, and in a second part the regulation of their expression. This overview should help to understand the rise of pili as an intensive field of investigation and pinpoints the areas that need further study.