Image_2_Structural and Functional Characterization of the Type Three Secretion System (T3SS) Needle of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.tif
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The type three secretion system (T3SS) is a macromolecular protein nano-syringe used by different bacterial pathogens to inject effectors into host cells. The extracellular part of the syringe is a needle-like filament formed by the polymerization of a 9-kDa protein whose structure and proper localization on the bacterial surface are key determinants for efficient toxin injection. Here, we combined in vivo, in vitro, and in silico approaches to characterize the Pseudomonas aeruginosa T3SS needle and its major component PscF. Using a combination of mutagenesis, phenotypic analyses, immunofluorescence, proteolysis, mass spectrometry, atomic force microscopy, electron microscopy, and molecular modeling, we propose a model of the P. aeruginosa needle that exposes the N-terminal region of each PscF monomer toward the outside of the filament, while the core of the fiber is formed by the C-terminal helix. Among mutations introduced into the needle protein PscF, D76A, and P47A/Q54A caused a defect in the assembly of the needle on the bacterial surface, although the double mutant was still cytotoxic on macrophages in a T3SS-dependent manner and formed filamentous structures in vitro. These results suggest that the T3SS needle of P. aeruginosa displays an architecture that is similar to that of other bacterial needles studied to date and highlight the fact that small, targeted perturbations in needle assembly can inhibit T3SS function. Therefore, the T3SS needle represents an excellent drug target for small molecules acting as virulence blockers that could disrupt pathogenesis of a broad range of bacteria.
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