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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Sep 25;98(20):11638-43. Epub 2001 Sep 18.

Supermolecular structure of the enteropathogenic Escherichia coli type III secretion system and its direct interaction with the EspA-sheath-like structure.

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  • 1Laboratory of Electron Microscopy, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kitasato University, 5-9-1 Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8641, Japan.


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) secretes several Esp proteins via the type III secretion system (secreton). EspA, EspB, and EspD are required for translocation of the effector proteins into host cells, in which EspB and EspD are thought to form a pore in the host membrane. Recent study has shown that EspA forms a filamentous structure that assembles as a physical bridge between bacteria and host cell surfaces, which then functions as a conduit for the translocation of bacterial effectors into host cells. To investigate the supermolecular structure of the type III secreton in EPEC, we partially purified it from the bacteria membrane and observed it via transmission electron microscopy. The EPEC type III secreton was composed of a basal body and a needle part and was similar to those of Salmonella and Shigella, except for a sheath-like structure at the tip of the needle. The length of sheath-like structures varied; it extended more than 600 nm and was 10 times longer than the Shigella needle part. The putative major needle component, EscF, was required for both secretion of Esp proteins and needle complex formation. Interestingly, elongation of the sheath-like structure was observed under constitutive expression of EspA but not of EscF. Furthermore, the transmission electron microscopy view with immunogold labeled anti-EspA antibodies clearly showed that EspA is a component of the sheath-like structure. This study revealed, to our knowledge for the first time, the supermolecular structure of the EPEC type III secreton and its direct association with the EspA-sheath-like structure.

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