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Cell Microbiol. 2010 Sep 1;12(9):1213-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2010.01500.x. Epub 2010 Jul 28.

Type IV secretion in the obligatory intracellular bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum.

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Department of Veterinary Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligatory intracellular bacterium that infects neutrophils, the primary host defence cells. Consequent effects of infection on host cells result in a potentially fatal systemic disease called human granulocytic anaplasmosis. Despite ongoing reductive genome evolution and deletion of most genes for intermediary metabolism and amino acid biosynthesis, Anaplasma has also experienced expansion of genes encoding several components of the type IV secretion (T4S) apparatus. Two A. phagocytophilum T4S effector molecules are currently known; Anaplasma translocated substrate 1 (Ats-1) and ankyrin repeat domain-containing protein A (AnkA) have C-terminal positively charged amino acid residues that are recognized by the T4S coupling protein, VirD4. AnkA and Ats-1 contain eukaryotic protein motifs and are uniquely evolved in the family Anaplasmataceae; Ats-1 contains a mitochondria-targeting signal. They are abundantly produced and secreted into the host cytoplasm, are not toxic to host cells, and manipulate host cell processes to aid in the infection process. At the cellular level, the two effectors have distinct subcellular localization and signalling in host cells. Thus in this obligatory intracellular pathogen, the T4S system has evolved as a host-subversive survival factor.

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