The virulence plasmid pWR100 and the repertoire of proteins secreted by the type III secretion apparatus of Shigella flexneri



Bacteria of Shigella spp. are the causative agents of shigellosis. The virulence traits of these pathogens include their ability to enter into epithelial cells and induce apoptosis in macrophages. Expression of these functions requires the Mxi–Spa type III secretion apparatus and the secreted IpaA–D proteins, all of which are encoded by a virulence plasmid. In wild-type strains, the activity of the secretion apparatus is tightly regulated and induced upon contact of bacteria with epithelial cells. To investigate the repertoire of proteins secreted by Shigella flexneri in conditions of active secretion, we determined the N-terminal sequence of 14 proteins that are secreted by a mutant in which secretion was deregulated. Sequencing of the virulence plasmid pWR100 of the S. flexneri strain M90T (serotype 5) has allowed us to identify the genes encoding these secreted proteins and suggests that approximately 25 proteins are secreted by the type III secretion apparatus. Analysis of the G+C content and the relative positions of genes and open reading frames carried by the plasmid, together with information concerning the localization and function of encoded proteins, suggests that pWR100 contains blocks of genes of various origins, some of which were initially carried by four different plasmids.