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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23876. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023876. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

Genetic analysis of anti-amoebae and anti-bacterial activities of the type VI secretion system in Vibrio cholerae.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.


A type VI secretion system (T6SS) was recently shown to be required for full virulence of Vibrio cholerae O37 serogroup strain V52. In this study, we systematically mutagenized each individual gene in T6SS locus and characterized their functions based on expression and secretion of the hemolysin co-regulated protein (Hcp), virulence towards amoebae of Dictyostelium discoideum and killing of Escherichia coli bacterial cells. We group the 17 proteins characterized in the T6SS locus into four categories: twelve (VipA, VipB, VCA0109-VCA0115, ClpV, VCA0119, and VasK) are essential for Hcp secretion and bacterial virulence, and thus likely function as structural components of the apparatus; two (VasH and VCA0122) are regulators that are required for T6SS gene expression and virulence; another two, VCA0121 and valine-glycine repeat protein G 3 (VgrG-3), are not essential for Hcp expression, secretion or bacterial virulence, and their functions are unknown; the last group is represented by VCA0118, which is not required for Hcp expression or secretion but still plays a role in both amoebae and bacterial killing and may therefore be an effector protein. We also showed that the clpV gene product is required for Dictyostelium virulence but is less important for killing E. coli. In addition, one vgrG gene (vgrG-2) outside of the T6SS gene cluster was required for bacterial killing but another (vgrG-1) was not. However, a bacterial killing defect was observed when vgrG-1 and vgrG-3 were both deleted. Several genes encoded in the same putative operon as vgrG-1 and vgrG-2 also contribute to virulence toward Dictyostelium but have a smaller effect on bacterial killing. Our results provide new insights into the functional requirements of V. cholerae's T6SS in the context of secretion as well as killing of bacterial and eukaryotic phagocytic cells.

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