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MBio. 2015 Oct 13;6(5):e01459-15. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01459-15.

Role of autocleavage in the function of a type III secretion specificity switch protein in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium.

Author information

1
Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine (IMIT), University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.
2
Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
3
Center for Plant Molecular Biology (ZMBP), University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.
4
Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA jorge.galan@yale.edu samuel.wagner@med.uni-tuebingen.de.
5
Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine (IMIT), University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), Tübingen, Germany jorge.galan@yale.edu samuel.wagner@med.uni-tuebingen.de.

Abstract

Type III secretion systems (T3SSs) are multiprotein machines employed by many Gram-negative bacteria to inject bacterial effector proteins into eukaryotic host cells to promote bacterial survival and colonization. The core unit of T3SSs is the needle complex, a supramolecular structure that mediates the passage of the secreted proteins through the bacterial envelope. A distinct feature of the T3SS is that protein export occurs in a strictly hierarchical manner in which proteins destined to form the needle complex filament and associated structures are secreted first, followed by the secretion of effectors and the proteins that will facilitate their translocation through the target host cell membrane. The secretion hierarchy is established by complex mechanisms that involve several T3SS-associated components, including the "switch protein," a highly conserved, inner membrane protease that undergoes autocatalytic cleavage. It has been proposed that the autocleavage of the switch protein is the trigger for substrate switching. We show here that autocleavage of the Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium switch protein SpaS is an unregulated process that occurs after its folding and before its incorporation into the needle complex. Needle complexes assembled with a precleaved form of SpaS function in a manner indistinguishable from that of the wild-type form. Furthermore, an engineered mutant of SpaS that is processed by an external protease also displays wild-type function. These results demonstrate that the cleavage event per se does not provide a signal for substrate switching but support the hypothesis that cleavage allows the proper conformation of SpaS to render it competent for its switching function.

IMPORTANCE:

Bacterial interaction with eukaryotic hosts often involves complex molecular machines for targeted delivery of bacterial effector proteins. One such machine, the type III secretion system of some Gram-negative bacteria, serves to inject a multitude of structurally diverse bacterial proteins into the host cell. Critical to the function of these systems is their ability to secrete proteins in a strict hierarchical order, but it is unclear how the mechanism of switching works. Central to the switching mechanism is a highly conserved inner membrane protease that undergoes autocatalytic cleavage. Although it has been suggested previously that the autocleavage event is the trigger for substrate switching, we show here that this is not the case. Rather, our results show that cleavage allows the proper conformation of the protein to render it competent for its switching function. These findings may help develop inhibitors of type III secretion machines that offer novel therapeutic avenues to treat various infectious diseases.

PMID:
26463164
PMCID:
PMC4620466
DOI:
10.1128/mBio.01459-15
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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