Molecular and functional analysis of the type III secretion signal of the Salmonella enterica InvJ protein



Central to the pathogenicity of Salmonella enterica is the function of a type III secretion system (TTSS) encoded within a pathogenicity island at centisome 63 (SPI-1). An essential component of this system is a supramolecular structure termed the needle complex. Proteins to be delivered into host cells possess specific signals that route them to the type III secretion pathway. In addition, some bacterial proteins have signals that deliver them to the secretion complex to either become their structural components or exert their function at that location. One of these proteins is InvJ, which controls the length of the needle substructure of the needle complex. In this study, we have analysed the signal that targets InvJ to the TTSS. We found that amino acid residues 4 to 7 of InvJ are necessary and sufficient to mediate secretion of InvJ or a reporter protein in a TTSS-dependent manner. InvJ secretion was found to be essential for its function in needle length determination, effector protein secretion and bacterial invasion of epithelial cells. Frameshift mutagenesis analysis indicated that the InvJ type III secretion signal sequence tolerates significant alterations in its amino acid sequence without affecting InvJ secretion. Introduction of silent mutations in the secretion signal coding sequence that result in drastically different predicted mRNA folds had no effect on InvJ secretion or expression.