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Cell Microbiol. 2009 Aug;11(8):1254-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2009.01330.x. Epub 2009 Apr 30.

Dual infection system identifies a crucial role for PKA-mediated serine phosphorylation of the EPEC-Tir-injected effector protein in regulating Rac1 function.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, Otto von Guericke University, Leipziger Str. 44, D-39120 Magdeburg, Germany.


Many Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria possess type-III or type-IV secretion systems to inject 'effector' proteins directly into host cells to modulate cellular processes in their favour. A common target is the actin-cytoskeleton linked to the delivery of a single (CagA) effector by Helicobacter pylori and multiple effectors by enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) respectively. Here we report co-infection as a powerful strategy for defining effector protein function and mechanisms by which they modulate cellular responses. This is exemplified by our finding that EPEC inhibits H. pylori-induced AGS cell elongation, a disease-related event linked to Rac1 activation. While this inhibitory process is dependent on the translocated Intimin receptor, Tir, and the outer-membrane protein, Intimin, it unexpectedly revealed evidence for Tir signalling independent of Intimin interaction and tyrosine phosphorylation of Tir. Furthermore, the work defined a long awaited role for protein kinase A (PKA)-mediated phosphorylation of Tir at serine-434 and serine-463. Our data are consistent with a model whereby EPEC activates PKA for Tir phosphorylation. Activated PKA then phosphorylates Rac1 at serine-71 associated with reduced GTP-load and inhibited cell elongation. Thus, the co-infection approach is a powerful strategy for defining novel effector function with important implications for characterizing mechanisms and regulatory signalling pathways in bacterial pathogenesis.

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