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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Nov;34(4):675-89.

A system for identifying post-invasion functions of invasion genes: requirements for the Mxi-Spa type III secretion pathway of Shigella flexneri in intercellular dissemination.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, F. Edward H├ębert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, MD 20814-4799, USA.


Invasion and intercellular spread are hallmarks of Shigella pathogenicity. Invasion of the eukaryotic cell cytosol requires a type III secretion system (Mxi-Spa) and its cognate set of secreted Ipa invasins. Once intracellular, the IcsA protein directs a form of actin-based motility that helps to drive intracellular bacterial movement, formation of cellular protrusions and cell-to-cell spread. Work in our laboratory has focused on identifying additional factors required for this intercellular form of dissemination. In this study, we sought to identify novel contributions of the type III secretion pathway to post-invasion-specific processes, distinct from its previously characterized roles in invasion. Studies of post-invasion Ipa and Mxi-Spa functions are complicated by an absolute requirement for these virulence proteins in invasion. To circumvent this problem, we developed a system called TIER (for test of intracellular expression requirements), whereby specific ipa, mxi or spa loci are transiently expressed before infection of tissue culture cell monolayers (thus supporting invasion), but then repressed after invasion in the intracellular environment. Such invasive type III secretion mutants (called TIER mutants) were severely restricted in their ability to spread intercellularly and form plaques in confluent tissue culture cell monolayers. Intercellular spread defects were associated with the repression of most type III pathway components examined, including structural (MxiM and Spa33), secreted effector (IpaB, IpaC and IpaD) and regulatory elements (VirF and VirB). A kinetic analysis of bacterial growth in L2 cell monolayers showed that each of the TIER mutants was defective with respect to long-term intracellular proliferation and viability. Examination of TIER mutant-infected monolayers by electron microscopy revealed that the type III pathway was required for a late step in intercellular spread - bacterial escape from protrusion-derived, double-membrane-bound vacuoles. The TIER mutants were eventually degraded in a process involving vacuolar acidification. Based on these findings, we propose that Ipa secretion via Mxi-Spa is required in the protrusion vacuole for double-membrane lysis.

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