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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Aug;49(4):965-76.

Coxiella burnetii express type IV secretion system proteins that function similarly to components of the Legionella pneumophila Dot/Icm system.

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Departamento de Microbiologia, Imunologia e Parasitologia, Escola Paulista de Medicina, UNIFESP, Rua Botucatu, 862, 6 degrees andar, São Paulo, SP 04023-062, Brazil.


Coxiella burnetii is an obligate intracellular pathogen that replicates in large endocytic vacuoles. Genomic sequence data indicate that 21 genes encoding products that are similar to components of the Legionella pneumophila Dot/Icm type IV secretion system are located on a contiguous 35 kb region of the Coxiella chromosome. It was found that several dot/icm genes were expressed by Coxiella during host cell infection and that dot/icm gene expression preceded the formation of large replicative vacuoles. To determine whether these genes encode a functional type IV secretion system, we have amplified the Coxiella dotB, icmQ, icmS and icmW genes and produced the encoded proteins in Legionella mutants in which the native copy of each gene had been deleted. The Coxiella dotB, icmS and icmW products restored dot/icm-dependent growth of Legionella mutants in eukaryotic host cells. The Coxiella IcmQ protein and the Legionella IcmR protein did not interact, which could explain why the Coxiella icmQ gene was unable to restore growth to a Legionella icmQ mutant. Thus, Coxiella encodes functional components of a type IV secretion system expressed in vivo that is mechanistically related to the Legionella Dot/Icm apparatus. These studies suggest that a dot/icm-related secretion system could play an important role in creating the specialized vacuole that supports Coxiella replication.

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