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Mol Microbiol. 2008 Dec;70(6):1515-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2008.06499.x. Epub 2008 Oct 17.

Spa32 interaction with the inner-membrane Spa40 component of the type III secretion system of Shigella flexneri is required for the control of the needle length by a molecular tape measure mechanism.

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Laboratoire de Bactériologie Moléculaire, Faculté de Médecine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Route de Lennik, 808, 1070, Bruxelles, Belgium.


The effectors of enterocyte invasion by Shigella are dependent on a type III secretion system that contains a needle whose length average does not exceed 50 nm. Previously, we reported that Spa32 is required for needle length control as well as to switch substrate specificity from MxiH to Ipa proteins secretion. To identify functional domains of Spa32, 11 truncated variants were constructed and analysed for their capacity (i) to control the needle's length; (ii) to secrete the Ipa proteins; and (iii) to invade HeLa cells. Deletion at either the N-terminus or C-terminus affect Spa32 function in all cases, but Spa32 variants lacking internal residues 37-94 or 130-159 retained full Spa32 function. Similarly, a Spa32 variant obtained by inserting of the YscP's ruler domain retained Spa32 function although it programmed slightly elongated needles. Using the GST pull-down assay, we show that residues 206-246 are required for Spa32 binding to the C-terminus of Spa40, an inner membrane protein required for Ipa proteins secretion. Our data clearly demonstrate that shortening Spa32 affects the length of the needle in a comparable manner to the spa32 mutant, indicating that the control of needle length does not require a molecular ruler mechanism.

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