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Microbiol Spectr. 2019 Jul;7(4). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.PSIB-0031-2019.

Structure and Activity of the Type VI Secretion System.

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Laboratoire d'Ingénierie des Systèmes Macromoléculaires (LISM), Institut de Microbiologie de la Méditerranée (IMM), Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, UMR 7255, 13402 Marseille Cedex 20, France.
Y.C. and N.F. contributed equally to this review.
Present address: Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, Global Health Institute, School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland.


The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a multiprotein machine that uses a spring-like mechanism to inject effectors into target cells. The injection apparatus is composed of a baseplate on which is built a contractile tail tube/sheath complex. The inner tube, topped by the spike complex, is propelled outside of the cell by the contraction of the sheath. The injection system is anchored to the cell envelope and oriented towards the cell exterior by a trans-envelope complex. Effectors delivered by the T6SS are loaded within the inner tube or on the spike complex and can target prokaryotic and/or eukaryotic cells. Here we summarize the structure, assembly, and mechanism of action of the T6SS. We also review the function of effectors and their mode of recruitment and delivery.

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