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EMBO J. 2003 Oct 1;22(19):4957-67.

Oligomerization of type III secretion proteins PopB and PopD precedes pore formation in Pseudomonas.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Virologie Moléculaire Structurale, Grenoble, France.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the agent of opportunistic infections in immunocompromised individuals and chronic respiratory illnesses in cystic fibrosis patients. Pseudomonas aeruginosa utilizes a type III secretion system for injection of toxins into the host cell cytoplasm through a channel on the target membrane (the 'translocon'). Here, we have functionally and structurally characterized PopB and PopD, membrane proteins implicated in the formation of the P.aeruginosa translocon. PopB and PopD form soluble complexes with their common chaperone, PcrH, either as stable heterodimers or as metastable heterooligomers. Only oligomeric forms are able to bind to and disrupt cholesterol-rich membranes, which occurs within a pH range of 5-7 in the case of PopB/PcrH, and only at acidic pH for PcrH-free PopD. Electron microscopy reveals that upon membrane association PopB and PopD form 80 A wide rings which encircle 40 A wide cavities. Thus, formation of metastable oligomers precedes membrane association and ring generation in the formation of the Pseudomonas translocon, a mechanism which may be similar for other pathogens that employ type III secretion systems.

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