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Microbiology. 2011 Dec;157(Pt 12):3483-91. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.052308-0. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

The biochemical properties of the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI)-encoded proteins IglA, IglB, IglC, PdpB and DotU suggest roles in type VI secretion.

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Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.


The Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) encodes proteins thought to compose a type VI secretion system (T6SS) that is required for the intracellular growth of Francisella novicida. In this work we used deletion mutagenesis and genetic complementation to determine that the intracellular growth of F. novicida was dependent on 14 of the 18 genes in the FPI. The products of the iglABCD operon were localized by the biochemical fractionation of F. novicida, and Francisella tularensis LVS. Sucrose gradient separation of water-insoluble material showed that the FPI-encoded proteins IglA, IglB and IglC were found in multiple fractions, especially in a fraction that did not correspond to a known membrane fraction. We interpreted these data to suggest that IglA, IglB and IglC are part of a macromolecular structure. Analysis of published structural data suggested that IglC is an analogue of Hcp, which is thought to form long nano-tubes. Thus the fractionation properties of IglA, IglB and IglC are consistent with the current model of the T6SS apparatus, which supposes that IglA and IglB homologues form an outer tube structure that surrounds an inner tube composed of Hcp (IglC) subunits. Fractionation of F. novicida expressing FLAG-tagged DotU (IcmH homologue) and PdpB (IcmF homologue) showed that these proteins localize to the inner membrane. Deletion of dotU led to the cleavage of PdpB, suggesting an interaction of these two proteins that is consistent with results obtained with other T6SSs. Our results may provide a mechanistic basis for many of the studies that have examined the virulence properties of Francisella mutants in FPI genes, namely that the observed phenotypes of the mutants are the result of the disruption of the FPI-encoded T6SS structure.

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