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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. May 29, 2000; 355(1397): 681–693.
PMCID: PMC1692769

Type III secretion: a bacterial device for close combat with cells of their eukaryotic host.


Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli and several plant-pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria use a new type of systems called 'type III secretion' to attack their host. These systems are activated by contact with a eukaryotic cell membrane and they allow bacteria to inject bacterial proteins across the two bacterial membranes and the eukaryotic cell membrane to reach a given compartment and destroy or subvert the target cell. These systems consist of a secretion apparatus made up of about 25 individual proteins and a set of proteins released by this apparatus. Some of these released proteins are 'effectors' that are delivered by extracellular bacteria into the cytosol of the target cell while the others are 'translocators' that help the 'effectors' to cross the membrane of the eukaryotic cell. Most of the 'effectors' act on the cytoskeleton or on intracellular signalling cascades. One of the proteins injected by the enteropathogenic E. coli serves as a membrane receptor for the docking of the bacterium itself at the surface of the cell.

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Selected References

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