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Mol Microbiol. 2004 Nov;54(3):604-19.

SsaM and SpiC interact and regulate secretion of Salmonella pathogenicity island 2 type III secretion system effectors and translocators.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection, Imperial College London, Armstrong Road, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


The type III secretion system (TTSS) encoded by Salmonella Pathogenicity Island 2 (SPI-2) is required for systemic infection and intracellular replication of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. The SPI-2 TTSS is activated after internalization of bacteria by host cells, and translocates effector proteins into and across the vacuolar membrane, where they interfere with several host cell functions. Here, we investigated the function of SsaM, a small protein encoded within SPI-2. An ssaM deletion mutant had virulence and intracellular replication defects comparable to those of a SPI-2 TTSS null mutant. Although the ssaM mutant was able to secrete the effector protein SseJ in vitro, it failed to translocate SseJ into host cells, and to secrete the translocon proteins SseB, SseC and SseD in vitro. This phenotype is similar to that of a strain carrying a mutation in the SPI-2 gene spiC, whose product is reported to be an effector involved in trafficking of the Salmonella vacuole in macrophages. Both ssaM and spiC mutants were found to oversecrete the SPI-2 effector proteins SseJ and PipB in vitro. Fractionation assays and immunofluorescence microscopy were used to investigate the localization of SsaM and SpiC in macrophages. No evidence for translocation of these proteins was obtained. The similar phenotypes of the ssaM and spiC mutants suggested that they might be involved in the same function. Pull-down and co-immune precipitation experiments showed that SpiC and SsaM interact within the bacterial cell. We propose that a complex involving SsaM and SpiC distinguishes between translocators and effector proteins, and controls their ordered secretion through the SPI-2 TTSS.

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