Functional amyloids in bacteria


  • Diego Romero Institute of Subtropical and Mediterranean Hortofruticulture “La Mayora”- CSIC, and Department of Microbiology, University of Malaga, Malaga.
  • Roberto Kolter Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA


Bacillus subtilis, bacterial biofilms, extracellular matrix, TasA amyloid-like fibers


The term amyloidosis is used to refer to a family of pathologies altering the homeostasis of human organs. Despite having a name that alludes to starch content, the amyloid accumulations are made up of proteins that polymerize as long and rigid fibers. Amyloid proteins vary widely with respect to their amino acid sequences but they share similarities in their quaternary structure; the amyloid fibers are enriched in β-sheets arranged perpendicular to the axis of the fiber. This structural feature provides great robustness, remarkable stability, and insolubility. In addition, amyloid proteins specifically stain with certain dyes such as Congo red and thioflavin-T. The aggregation into amyloid fibers, however, it is not restricted to pathogenic processes, rather it seems to be widely distributed among proteins and polypeptides. Amyloid fibers are present in insects, fungi and bacteria, and they are important in maintaining the homeostasis of the organism. Such findings have motivated the use of the term “functional amyloid” to differentiate these amyloid proteins from their toxic siblings. This review focuses on systems that have evolved in bacteria that control the expression and assembly of amyloid proteins on cell surfaces, such that the robustness of amyloid proteins are used towards a beneficial end. [Int Microbiol 2014; 17(2):65-73]

Keywords: Bacillus subtilis · bacterial biofilms · extracellular matrix · TasA amyloid-like fibers




Research Reviews