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Microbiology. 2005 Nov;151(Pt 11):3505-16.

Functional interactions between type IV secretion systems involved in DNA transfer and virulence.

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Departamento de Biología Molecular (Unidad Asociada al CIB-CSIC), Universidad de Cantabria, C. Herrera Oria s/n, 39011 Santander, Spain.


This paper reports an analysis of the functional interactions between type IV secretion systems (T4SS) that are part of the conjugative machinery for horizontal DNA transfer (cT4SS), and T4SS involved in bacterial pathogenicity (pT4SS). The authors' previous work showed that a conjugative coupling protein (T4CP) interacts with the VirB10-type component of the T4SS in order to recruit the protein-DNA complex to the transporter for conjugative DNA transfer. This study now shows by two-hybrid analysis that conjugative T4CPs also interact with the VirB10 element of the pT4SS of Agrobacterium tumefaciens (At), Bartonella tribocorum (Bt) and Brucella suis (Bs). Moreover, the VirB10 component of a cT4SS (protein TrwE of plasmid R388) could be partially substituted by that of a pT4SS (protein TrwE of Bt) for conjugation. This result opens the way for the construction of hybrid T4SS that deliver DNA into animal cells. Interestingly, in the presence of part of the Bs T4SS the R388 T4SS protein levels were decreased and R388 conjugation was strongly inhibited. Complementation assays between the Trw systems of R388 and Bt showed that only individual components from the so-called 'core complex' could be exchanged, supporting the concept that this core is the common scaffold for the transport apparatus while the other 'peripheral components' are largely system-specific.

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