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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 May 25;96(11):6456-61.

A new pathway for the secretion of virulence factors by bacteria: the flagellar export apparatus functions as a protein-secretion system.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Biogenesis of the flagellum, a motive organelle of many bacterial species, is best understood for members of the Enterobacteriaceae. The flagellum is a heterooligomeric structure that protrudes from the surface of the cell. Its assembly initially involves the synthesis of a dedicated protein export apparatus that subsequently transports other flagellar proteins by a type III mechanism from the cytoplasm to the outer surface of the cell, where oligomerization occurs. In this study, the flagellum export apparatus was shown to function also as a secretion system for the transport of several extracellular proteins in the pathogenic bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica. One of the proteins exported by the flagellar secretion system was the virulence-associated phospholipase, YplA. These results suggest type III protein secretion by the flagellar system may be a general mechanism for the transport of proteins that influence bacterial-host interactions.

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