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EMBO J. 2001 Oct 1;20(19):5373-82.

A bacterial type III secretion system inhibits actin polymerization to prevent pore formation in host cell membranes.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Center for Infectious Diseases, School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5222, USA.


The bacterial pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis uses type III secretion machinery to translocate Yop effector proteins through host cell plasma membranes. A current model suggests that a type III translocation channel is inserted into the plasma membrane, and if Yops are not present to fill the channel, the channel will form a pore. We examined the possibility that Yops act within the host cell to prevent pore formation. Yop- mutants of Y.pseudotuberculosis were assayed for pore-forming activity in HeLa cells. A YopE- mutant exhibited high levels of pore-forming activity. The GTPase-downregulating function of YopE was required to prevent pore formation. YopE+ bacteria had increased pore-forming activity when HeLa cells expressed activated Rho GTPases. Pore formation by YopE- bacteria required actin polymerization. F-actin was concentrated at sites of contact between HeLa cells and YopE- bacteria. The data suggest that localized actin polymerization, triggered by the type III machinery, results in pore formation in cells infected with YopE- bacteria. Thus, translocated YopE inhibits actin polymerization to prevent membane damage to cells infected with wild-type bacteria.

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