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Cell Host Microbe. 2015 Jul 8;18(1):38-48. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2015.06.002. Epub 2015 Jun 18.

Host Cytosolic Glutathione Sensing by a Membrane Histidine Kinase Activates the Type VI Secretion System in an Intracellular Bacterium.

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1
Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. MD7, 8 Medical Drive, Singapore 117597, Singapore.
2
Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. MD7, 8 Medical Drive, Singapore 117597, Singapore. Electronic address: bchganyh@nus.edu.sg.

Abstract

Type VI secretion systems (T6SSs) are major virulence mechanisms in many Gram-negative bacteria, but the physiological signals that activate them are not well understood. The T6SS1 of Burkholderia pseudomallei is essential for pathogenesis in mammalian hosts and is only expressed when the bacterium is intracellular. We found that signals for T6SS1 activation reside in the host cytosol. Through site-directed mutagenesis and biochemical studies, we identified low molecular weight thiols, particularly glutathione, as the signal sensed by a periplasmic cysteine residue (C62) on the histidine kinase sensor VirA. Upon glutathione exposure, dimeric VirA is converted to monomers via reduction at C62. When glutathione in the host was depleted, T6SS1 expression was abrogated, and bacteria could no longer induce multinucleate giant cell formation, the hallmark of T6SS1 function. Therefore, intracellular bacteria exploit the abundance of glutathione in host cytosol as a signal for expression of virulence at the appropriate time and place.

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PMID:
26094804
DOI:
10.1016/j.chom.2015.06.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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