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J Med Microbiol. 2001 Feb;50(2):116-26.

Type III secretion systems and pathogenicity islands.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology and Genito-Urinary Medicine, University of Liverpool.


Some bacterial pathogens have evolved by acquiring pathogenicity islands (PIs), which are clusters of genes encoding virulence traits. PIs encoding the secretion of effector molecules via type III secretion (TTS) systems have been discovered in several gram-negative pathogens. TTS systems are involved in contact-dependent secretion of virulence factors and can facilitate delivery of toxins directly into target cells. The expanding list of bacteria found to contain clusters of TTS genes includes members of the genera Yersinia, Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia, Pseudomonas, Bordetella, Burkholderia, Chlamydia and a number of plant pathogens or symbionts. This review discusses the current knowledge of the role of TTS PIs in pathogenicity, the genetic organisation and evolution of such systems,and the potential for using TTS systems as targets for novel treatments.

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