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Trends Microbiol. 2006 Jun;14(6):264-70. Epub 2006 May 5.

Trimeric autotransporter adhesins: variable structure, common function.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Abteilung Proteinevolution, Spemannstr. 35, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Trimeric autotransporter adhesins (TAAs) are important virulence factors in gram-negative pathogens. Despite the variety of hosts ranging from plants to mammals and the specialized regulation of TAAs, their molecular organization follows surprisingly simple rules: they form trimeric surface structures with a head-stalk-anchor architecture. The head and stalk are composed of a small set of domains, building blocks that are frequently arranged repetitively. We propose that this repetitive arrangement facilitates recombination of domains to modulate the specificity of the common function: adhesion to the host.

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