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Access to the article is free, however registration and sign-in are required. Unexpected covalent bonds explain the high mechanical strength of the ultrathin pili of Gram-positive bacteria.Many bacteria persist in their environmental niches by attaching themselves via hairlike extensions that project from their surfaces. In Gram-negative bacteria, these filamentous, multisubunit protein structures--called pili or fimbria--can also be involved in the transfer of genetic material, induction of signaling in host cells, and twitching motility. Kang et al. show how these thin structures can withstand the mechanical rigors of life outside the cell.
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