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J Bacteriol. 2009 Jul;191(13):4316-29. doi: 10.1128/JB.00029-09. Epub 2009 Apr 24.

An IcmF family protein, ImpLM, is an integral inner membrane protein interacting with ImpKL, and its walker a motif is required for type VI secretion system-mediated Hcp secretion in Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

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Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.


An intracellular multiplication F (IcmF) family protein is a conserved component of a newly identified type VI secretion system (T6SS) encoded in many animal and plant-associated Proteobacteria. We have previously identified ImpL(M), an IcmF family protein that is required for the secretion of the T6SS substrate hemolysin-coregulated protein (Hcp) from the plant-pathogenic bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. In this study, we characterized the topology of ImpL(M) and the importance of its nucleotide-binding Walker A motif involved in Hcp secretion from A. tumefaciens. A combination of beta-lactamase-green fluorescent protein fusion and biochemical fractionation analyses revealed that ImpL(M) is an integral polytopic inner membrane protein comprising three transmembrane domains bordered by an N-terminal domain facing the cytoplasm and a C-terminal domain exposed to the periplasm. impL(M) mutants with substitutions or deletions in the Walker A motif failed to complement the impL(M) deletion mutant for Hcp secretion, which provided evidence that ImpL(M) may bind and/or hydrolyze nucleoside triphosphates to mediate T6SS machine assembly and/or substrate secretion. Protein-protein interaction and protein stability analyses indicated that there is a physical interaction between ImpL(M) and another essential T6SS component, ImpK(L). Topology and biochemical fractionation analyses suggested that ImpK(L) is an integral bitopic inner membrane protein with an N-terminal domain facing the cytoplasm and a C-terminal OmpA-like domain exposed to the periplasm. Further comprehensive yeast two-hybrid assays dissecting ImpL(M)-ImpK(L) interaction domains suggested that ImpL(M) interacts with ImpK(L) via the N-terminal cytoplasmic domains of the proteins. In conclusion, ImpL(M) interacts with ImpK(L), and its Walker A motif is required for its function in mediation of Hcp secretion from A. tumefaciens.

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