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Front Microbiol. 2010 Nov 15;1:117. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2010.00117. eCollection 2010.

The Vibrio Cholerae Type VI Secretion System: Evaluating its Role in the Human Disease Cholera.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Alberta Edmonton, AB, Canada.


Vibrio cholerae, the marine bacterium responsible for the diarrheal disease cholera, utilizes a multitude of virulence factors to cause disease. The importance of two of these factors, the toxin co-regulated pilus (TCP) and cholera toxin (CT), has been well documented for pandemic O1 and epidemic O139 serogroups. In contrast, endemic non-O1 and non-O139 serogroups can cause localized outbreaks of cholera-like illness, often in the absence of TCP and CT. One virulence mechanism used by these strains is the type VI secretion system (T6SS) to export toxins across the cell envelope and confer toxicity toward eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms. The V. cholerae strain V52 (an O37 serogroup strain) possesses a constitutively active T6SS and was responsible for an outbreak of gastroenteritis in Sudan in 1968. To evaluate a potential role of the T6SS in the disease cholera, we compared the T6SS clusters of V. cholerae strains with sequenced genomes. We found that the majority of V. cholerae strains, including one pandemic strain, contain intact T6SS gene clusters; thus, we propose that the T6SS is a conserved mechanism that allows pandemic and endemic V. cholerae to persist both in the host and in the environment.


Vibrio cholerae; cholera; type VI secretion system

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