Pilins and minor pilins

Pilins are the major structural building blocks of type IV pili.  They have a lollipop shape, with a long, hydrophobic N terminal alpha helix and a soluble C terminal domain composed of a beta sheet with the strands connected by loops.  They are made as pre-pilins and must have a short leader sequence clipped off the N-terminus before they can assemble into pili.

The pilins assemble in a helical fashion with the hydrophobic N-terminal regions on the inside of the fibre and the hydrophilic C-termini on the outside.  The C terminus can be decorated with sugars or other molecules that affect the properties and antigenicity of the pilus.  Minor pilins have a similar N-terminus to major pilins, but their C-termini are different.  They play a role in pilus assembly, potentially by priming the process.

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