Send to

Choose Destination
Infect Immun. 2019 Aug 21;87(9). pii: e00457-19. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00457-19. Print 2019 Sep.

Stenotrophomonas maltophilia Encodes a VirB/VirD4 Type IV Secretion System That Modulates Apoptosis in Human Cells and Promotes Competition against Heterologous Bacteria, Including Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Author information

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


Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is an emerging opportunistic and nosocomial pathogen. S. maltophilia is also a risk factor for lung exacerbations in cystic fibrosis patients. S. maltophilia attaches to various mammalian cells, and we recently documented that the bacterium encodes a type II secretion system which triggers detachment-induced apoptosis in lung epithelial cells. We have now confirmed that S. maltophilia also encodes a type IVA secretion system (VirB/VirD4 [VirB/D4] T4SS) that is highly conserved among S. maltophilia strains and, looking beyond the Stenotrophomonas genus, is most similar to the T4SS of Xanthomonas To define the role(s) of this T4SS, we constructed a mutant of strain K279a that is devoid of secretion activity due to loss of the VirB10 component. The mutant induced a higher level of apoptosis upon infection of human lung epithelial cells, indicating that a T4SS effector(s) has antiapoptotic activity. However, when we infected human macrophages, the mutant triggered a lower level of apoptosis, implying that the T4SS also elaborates a proapoptotic factor(s). Moreover, when we cocultured K279a with strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the T4SS promoted the growth of S. maltophilia and reduced the numbers of heterologous bacteria, signaling that another effector(s) has antibacterial activity. In all cases, the effect of the T4SS required S. maltophilia contact with its target. Thus, S. maltophilia VirB/D4 T4SS appears to secrete multiple effectors capable of modulating death pathways. That a T4SS can have anti- and prokilling effects on different targets, including both human and bacterial cells, has, to our knowledge, not been seen before.


Pseudomonas; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; Stenotrophomonas; Stenotrophomonas maltophilia; Xanthomonas; apoptosis; bacterial competition; epithelial cells; macrophages; type IV secretion

[Available on 2020-02-21]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center