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EMBO J. 2010 Apr 21;29(8):1363-76. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2010.33. Epub 2010 Mar 18.

A bacterial effector targets host DH-PH domain RhoGEFs and antagonizes macrophage phagocytosis.

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College of Life Science, Peking University, Beijing, China.


Bacterial pathogens often harbour a type III secretion system (TTSS) that injects effector proteins into eukaryotic cells to manipulate host processes and cause diseases. Identification of host targets of bacterial effectors and revealing their mechanism of actions are crucial for understating bacterial virulence. We show that EspH, a type III effector conserved in enteric bacterial pathogens including enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), enterohaemorrhagic E. coli and Citrobacter rodentium, markedly disrupts actin cytoskeleton structure and induces cell rounding up when ectopically expressed or delivered into HeLa cells by the bacterial TTSS. EspH inactivates host Rho GTPase signalling pathway at the level of RhoGEF. EspH directly binds the DH-PH domain in multiple RhoGEFs, which prevents their binding to Rho and thereby inhibits nucleotide exchange-mediated Rho activation. Consistently, infection of mouse macrophages with EPEC harbouring EspH attenuates phagocytosis of the bacteria as well as FcgammaR-mediated phagocytosis. EspH represents the first example of targeting RhoGEFs by bacterial effectors, and our results also reveal an unprecedented mechanism used by enteric pathogens to counteract the host defence system.

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