LcrQ and SycH function together at the Ysc type III secretion system in Yersinia pestis to impose a hierarchy of secretion



LcrQ is a regulatory protein unique to Yersinia. Previous study in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Yersinia enterocolitica prompted the model in which LcrQ negatively regulates the expression of a set of virulence proteins called Yops, and its secretion upon activation of the Yop secretion (Ysc) type III secretion system permits full induction of Yops expression. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that LcrQ’s effects on Yops expression might be indirect. Excess LcrQ was found to exert an inhibitory effect specifically at the level of Yops secretion, independent of production, and a normal inner Ysc gate protein LcrG was required for this activity. However, overexpression of LcrQ did not prevent YopH secretion, suggesting that LcrQ’s effects at the Ysc discriminate among the Yops. We tested this idea by determining the effects of deletion or overexpression of LcrQ, YopH and their common chaperone SycH on early Yop secretion through the Ysc. Together, our findings indicated that LcrQ is not a negative regulator directly, but it acts in partnership with SycH at the Ysc gate to control the entry of a set of Ysc secretion substrates. A hierarchy of YopH secretion before YopE appears to be imposed by SycH in conjunction with both LcrQ and YopH. LcrQ and SycH in addition influenced the deployment of LcrV, a component of the Yops delivery mechanism. Accordingly, LcrQ appears to be a central player in determining the substrate specificity of the Ysc.