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Cell Microbiol. 2008 Feb;10(2):285-92. Epub 2007 Nov 21.

Host-pathogen interplay and the evolution of bacterial effectors.

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Arizona, 1007 E Lowell Street, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


Many bacterial pathogens require a type III secretion system (T3SS) and suite of type III secreted effectors (T3SEs) to successfully colonize their hosts, extract nutrients and consequently cause disease. T3SEs, in particular, are key components of the bacterial arsenal, as they function directly inside the host to disrupt or suppress critical components of the defence network. The development of host defence and surveillance systems imposes intense selective pressures on these bacterial virulence factors, resulting in a host-pathogen co-evolutionary arms race. This arms race leaves its genetic signature in the pattern and structure of natural genetic variation found in T3SEs, thereby permitting us to infer the specific evolutionary processes and pressures driving these interactions. In this review, we summarize our current knowledge of T3SS-mediated host-pathogen co-evolution. We examine the evolution of the T3SS and the T3SEs that traverse it, in both plant and animal pathosystems, and discuss the processes that maintain these important pathogenicity determinants within pathogen populations. We go on to examine the possible origins of T3SEs, the mechanisms that give rise to new T3SEs and the processes that underlie their evolution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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