Campus Access Only

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of University of the Pacific. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Douglas D. Risser

First Committee Member

Craig A. Vierra

Second Committee Member

Douglas C. Weiser


Partner-switching regulatory systems (PSRSs) are utilized by many different bacteria to regulate a wide array of cellular responses, from stress response to expression of virulence factors. The filamentous cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme can transiently differentiate motile filaments, called hormogonia, in response to various changes in the environment. Hormogonia utilize a Type IV pilus (T4P) complex in conjunction with a secreted polysaccharide for gliding motility along solid surfaces. This study identified three genes, designated hmpU, hmpW, and hmpV, encoding the protein components of a PSRS involved in regulation of hormogonium motility in N. punctiforme. Although mutant strains with in-frame deletions in hmpU, hmpW, and hmpV differentiated morphologically distinct hormogonium-like filaments, further phenotypic analysis demonstrated significant distinctions among the strains. The ∆hmpW strain contained a higher percentage of motile filaments that moved faster than the wild-type strain, while the ∆hmpU and ∆hmpV strains consisted of fewer motile filaments that moved at a slower rate compared to wild type. Immunoblotting and immunofluorescence of PilA, the major component of the pilus in the T4P system, showed that although all mutant strains appeared to express similar levels of PilA protein, the ∆hmpU and ∆hmpV strains displayed reduced extracellular PilA. Lectin blotting and staining with fluorescently-labeled UEA lectin demonstrated a decrease in extracellular hormogonium polysaccharide in the ∆hmpU and ∆hmpV strains, consistent with the current understanding that the polysaccharide is secreted via the T4P system. Epistasis analysis demonstrated that the ∆hmpW, ∆hmpV double-deletion mutant strain displayed reduced spreading in plate motility assays, similar to the ∆hmpV single mutant. Together, these results support a model in which the HmpU phosphatase and HmpW serine kinase control the phosphorylation state of the HmpV protein, modulating its activity on a downstream target to ultimately promote activation of the T4P motor complex and enhance hormogonium motility.



Included in

Biology Commons



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).