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Int J Med Microbiol. 2007 Oct;297(6):401-15. Epub 2007 May 7.

Protein secretion systems and adhesins: the molecular armory of Gram-negative pathogens.

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Institut f├╝r Klinische Mikrobiologie, Immunologie und Hygiene, Universit├Ątsklinikum Erlangen, Wasserturmstrasse 3-5, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany.


Protein secretion is a basic cellular function found in organisms of all kingdoms of life. Gram-negative bacteria have evolved a remarkable number of pathways for the transport of proteins across the cell envelope. The secretion systems fulfill general cellular functions but are also essential for pathogenic bacteria during the interaction with eukaryotic host cells. Secretion systems range from relatively simple structures such as type I secretion systems composed of three subunits that only secrete one substrate protein to complex machines such as type III and IV secretion systems composed of more than 20 subunits that can translocate large sets of effector proteins into eukaryotic target cells. In this review, the main structural and functional features of secretion systems are described. One subgroup of substrate proteins of secretion systems are protein adhesins. Despite the conserved function in binding to host cell ligands or to abiotic surfaces, the assembly of the various bacterial adhesins is highly divergent. Here we give an overview on the recent understanding of the assembly of fimbrial and non-fimbrial adhesins and the role of type I, III and V secretion systems and specialized branches of the general secretion pathway in their biogenesis.

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