The tad locus encodes the components for the secretion and biogenesis of Flp pili, which are necessary for the biofilm to form. TadZ is required, but its function has been elusive.
We show that tadZ genes belong to the parA/minD superfamily of genes and that TadZ from A. actinomycetemcomitans (AaTadZ) forms a polar focus in the cell independent of any other tad locus protein.
Mutations indicate that regions in AaTadZ are required for polar localization and biofilm formation.
We show that AaTadZ dimerizes and that all TadZ proteins are predicted to have a Walker-like A box. However, they all lack the conserved lysine at position 6 (K6) present in the canonical Walker-like A box.
When the alanine residue (A6) in the atypical Walker-like A box of AaTadZ was converted to lysine, the mutant protein remained able to dimerize and localize, but it was unable to allow the formation of a biofilm.
Another essential biofilm protein, the ATPase (AaTadA), also localizes to a pole. However, its correct localization depends on the presence of AaTadZ. We suggest that the TadZ proteins mediate polar localization of the Tad secretion apparatus.