The attachment organelles of bacterial species belonging to the Mycoplasma pneumonia phylogenetic cluster are required for host cytadherence, gliding motility and virulence. Despite being closely related, these bacteria possess distinct cellular morphologies and gliding characteristics. The molecular mechanisms for most attachment organelle phenotypes, including shape and ability to power motility, are obscure. The attachment organelle-associated P30 protein of M. pneumoniae is implicated in both adherence and motility, with mutations negatively impacting cell morphology, adherence, gliding and virulence. To test whether the P30 alleles of different mycoplasma species confer species-specific attachment organelle properties, we created an M. pneumoniae strain in which the Mycoplasma genitalium P30 orthologue, P32, was substituted for the native P30. Selected clones were visualized by scanning electron microscopy to assess morphology and by indirect immunofluorescence microscopy to localize P32. Cytadherence ability and gliding motility were assessed by haemadsorption assay and phase- contrast microcinematography, respectively. Cell and attachment organelle morphologies were indistinguishable from wild-type M. pneumoniae as well as M. pneumoniae II-3 expressing a C-terminally 6 His-tagged P30 construct. P32 was localized to the tip of the attachment organelle of transformant cells. Although a specific role for P30 in species-specific phenotypes was not identified, this first test of orthologous gene replacement in different mycoplasma species demonstrates that the differences in the M. pneumoniae and M. genitalium proteins contribute little if anything to the different attachment organelle phenotypes between these species.
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