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Infect Immun. 2013 Sep;81(9):3210-9. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00546-13. Epub 2013 Jun 17.

Stenotrophomonas maltophilia encodes a type II protein secretion system that promotes detrimental effects on lung epithelial cells.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


The Gram-negative bacterium Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is increasingly identified as a multidrug-resistant pathogen, being associated with pneumonia, among other infections. Despite this increasing clinical problem, the genetic and molecular basis of S. maltophilia virulence is quite minimally defined. We now report that strain K279a, the first clinical isolate of S. maltophilia to be sequenced, encodes a functional type II protein secretion (T2S) system. Indeed, mutants of K279a that contain a mutation in the xps locus exhibit a loss of at least seven secreted proteins and three proteolytic activities. Unlike culture supernatants from the parental K279a, supernatants from multiple xps mutants also failed to induce the rounding, detachment, and death of A549 cells, a human lung epithelial cell line. Supernatants of the xps mutants were also unable to trigger a massive rearrangement in the host cell's actin cytoskeleton that was associated with K279a secretion. In all assays, a complemented xpsF mutant behaved as the wild type did, demonstrating that Xps T2S is required for optimal protein secretion and the detrimental effects on host cells. The activities that were defined as being Xps dependent in K279a were evident among other respiratory isolates of S. maltophilia. Utilizing a similar type of genetic analysis, we found that a second T2S system (Gsp) encoded by the K279a genome is cryptic under all of the conditions tested. Overall, this study represents the first examination of T2S in S. maltophilia, and the data obtained indicate that Xps T2S likely plays an important role in S. maltophilia pathogenesis.

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