Characterization of a Francisella pathogenicity island-encoded secretion system




De Bruin, Olle Maarten

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Secretion is a fundamental process of bacterial microorganisms. It is responsible for diverse functions such as cell-to-cell communication, nutritional up-take, environmental adaptation, physiological responses, and evasion of the immune system of a host. To accomplish the task of secretion, bacteria have evolved multi-protein complexes, known as secretion apparatuses, which span the bacterial membranes serving as a conduit between the interior of bacteria and the extracellular milieu. Francisella tularensis is a Gram negative bacterium capable of growth inside macrophages. Francisella tularensis causes a rare but severe disease known as tularemia. The Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) is a circa 30-kb genetic region that harbours genes of unknown function implicated in virulence of this organism. Although many of the FPI-encoded protein products do not appear to have any known homologues, some of the FPI proteins show similarity to proteins involved in type VI secretion (T6S) of other bacteria. T6S systems are newly described bacterial virulence factors evolutionarily related to bacteriophages. We have tested the hypothesis the FPI encodes a secretion system. The FPI-encoded secretion system secretes a novel protein, IglC, into the extracellular milieu during broth growth. Systematic deletion mutagenesis determined the contribution of individual FPI genes to intramacrophage growth and secretion. We further characterized the secretion system by determining the subcellular localization of each FPI protein in the bacterial cell. An interaction between two inner membrane proteins, PdpB and DotU, was observed by co-immunoprecipitation, and the stability of PdpB requires DotU. Similarly, an interaction of IglA and IglB was demonstrated. Biochemical and fluorescence microscopy evidence suggest IglC is secreted into macrophages during intracellular localization of bacteria. Finally, a model of the FPI-encoded secretion system is presented. Our experiments provide biochemical, genetic and microscopy evidence that the FPI encodes a secretion system. The analysis of FPI-encoded secretion provides novel insights that may help us understand the role of FPI-encoded secretion in Francisella intracellular growth and virulence.



Francisella, secretion, microbiology, intracellular, pathogen, disease, molecular microbiology, pathogenicity island