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Mol Microbiol. 2003 May;48(3):671-83.

Chlamydia trachomatis type III secretion: evidence for a functional apparatus during early-cycle development.

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Host-Parasite Interactions Section, Laboratory of Intracellular Parasites, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


The obligate intracellular bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis occupies a parasitophorous vacuole termed an inclusion. During its intracellular developmental cycle, C. trachomatis maintains this intracellular niche, presumably by expressing a type III secretion system, which deploys a set of host cell-interactive proteins including inclusion membrane-localized proteins termed Incs. Some Incs are expressed and secreted by 2 h (early cycle) after infection, whereas the expression of type III-specific genes is not detectable until 6-12 h (mid-cycle). To resolve this paradox, we investigated the presence of a type III apparatus on elementary bodies (EBs) that might function early in infection. We demonstrate the existence of the type III secretory apparatus by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) and immunoblot analyses of purified EB extracts. Immunoblots using polyclonal antibodies specific for the core apparatus component CdsJ identified this protein in both EB and reticulate body (RB) extracts. Furthermore, CdsJ-specific signals were detected by immunoblot of whole infected-culture extracts and by indirect immunofluorescence of infected monolayers at times before the detection of cdsJ-specific message. Finally, expression of IncC, expressed by 2 h after infection during C. trachomatis infections, in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis resulted in its secretion via the Yersinia type III apparatus. Based on these data, we propose a model in which type III secretion pores are present on EBs and mediate secretion of early Incs and possible additional effectors. Mid-cycle expression of type III genes would then replenish secretion apparatus on vegetative RBs and serve as a source of secretion pores for subsequently formed EBs.

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