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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Aug;45(4):905-16.

Coiled-coil proteins associated with type III secretion systems: a versatile domain revisited.

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Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection, Department of Biological Sciences, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK.


The pathogenic potential of many Gram-negative bacteria is indicated by the possession of a specialized type III secretion system that is used to deliver virulence effector proteins directly into the cellular environment of the eukaryotic host. Extracellular assemblies of secreted proteins contrive a physical link between the pathogen and host cytosol and enable the translocated effectors to bypass the bacterial and host membranes in a single step. Subsequent interactions of some effector proteins with host cytoskeletal and signalling proteins result in modulation of the cytoskeletal architecture of the aggressed cell and facilitate entry, survival and dissemination of the pathogen. Although the secreted components of type III secretion systems are diverse, many are predicted to share a common coiled-coil structural feature. Coiled-coils are ubiquitous and highly versatile assembly motifs found in a wide range of structural and regulatory proteins. The prevalence of these domains in secreted virulence effector proteins suggests a fundamental contribution to multiple aspects of their function, and evidence accumulating from functional studies suggests an intrinsic involvement of coiled-coils in subunit assembly, translocation and flexible interactions with multiple bacterial and host proteins. The known functional flexibility that coiled-coil domains confer upon proteins provides insights into some of the pathogenic mechanisms used during interaction with the host.

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