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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 15, 1995; 92(17): 7996–8000.
PMCID: PMC41273

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli contains a putative type III secretion system necessary for the export of proteins involved in attaching and effacing lesion formation.

Abstract

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) causes a characteristic histopathology in intestinal epithelial cells called the attaching and effacing lesion. Although the histopathological lesion is well described the bacterial factors responsible for it are poorly characterized. We have identified four EPEC chromosomal genes whose predicted protein sequences are similar to components of a recently described secretory pathway (type III) responsible for exporting proteins lacking a typical signal sequence. We have designated the genes sepA, sepB, sepC, and sepD (sep, for secretion of E. coli proteins). The predicted Sep polypeptides are similar to the Lcr (low calcium response) and Ysc (yersinia secretion) proteins of Yersinia species and the Mxi (membrane expression of invasion plasmid antigens) and Spa (surface presentation of antigens) regions of Shigella flexneri. Culture supernatants of EPEC strain E2348/69 contain several polypeptides ranging in size from 110 kDa to 19 kDa. Proteins of comparable size were recognized by human convalescent serum from a volunteer experimentally infected with strain E2348/69. A sepB mutant of EPEC secreted only the 110-kDa polypeptide and was defective in the formation of attaching and effacing lesions and protein-tyrosine phosphorylation in tissue culture cells. These phenotypes were restored upon complementation with a plasmid carrying an intact sepB gene. These data suggest that the EPEC Sep proteins are components of a type III secretory apparatus necessary for the export of virulence determinants.

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