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Mol Oral Microbiol. 2014 Dec;29(6):307-20. doi: 10.1111/omi.12062. Epub 2014 Sep 15.

The S-layer proteins of Tannerella forsythia are secreted via a type IX secretion system that is decoupled from protein O-glycosylation.

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Department of NanoBiotechnology, NanoGlycobiology Unit, Universität für Bodenkultur Wien, Vienna, Austria.


Conserved C-terminal domains (CTD) have been shown to act as a signal for the translocation of certain proteins across the outer membrane of Bacteroidetes via a type IX secretion system (T9SS). The genome sequence of the periodontal pathogen Tannerella forsythia predicts the presence of the components for a T9SS in conjunction with a suite of CTD proteins. T. forsythia is covered with a two-dimensional crystalline surface (S-) layer composed of the glycosylated CTD proteins TfsA and TfsB. To investigate, if T9SS is functional in T. forsythia, T9SS-deficient mutants were generated by targeting either TF0955 (putative C-terminal signal peptidase) or TF2327 (PorK ortholog), and the mutants were analyzed with respect to secretion, assembly and glycosylation of the S-layer proteins as well as proteolytic processing of the CTD and biofilm formation. In either mutant, TfsA and TfsB were incapable of translocation, as evidenced by the absence of the S-layer in transmission electron microscopy of ultrathin-sectioned bacterial cells. Despite being entrapped within the periplasm, mass spectrometry analysis revealed that the S-layer proteins were modified with the complete, mature glycan found on the secreted proteins, indicating that protein translocation and glycosylation are two independent processes. Further, the T9SS mutants showed a denser biofilm with fewer voids compared with the wild-type. This study demonstrates the functionality of T9SS and the requirement of CTD for the outer membrane passage of extracellular proteins in T. forsythia, exemplified by the two S-layer proteins. In addition, T9SS protein translocation is decoupled from O-glycan attachment in T. forsythia.


C-terminal domain; C-terminal signal peptidase; S-layer glycosylation; T9SS; protein secretion

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