Secretion of a soluble colonization factor by the TCP type 4 pilus biogenesis pathway in Vibrio cholerae


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Colonization of the human small intestine by Vibrio cholerae requires the type 4 toxin co-regulated pilus (TCP). Genes encoding the structure and biogenesis functions of TCP are organized within an operon located on the Vibrio Pathogenicity Island (VPI). In an effort to elucidate the functions of proteins involved in TCP biogenesis, in frame deletions of all of the genes within the tcp operon coding for putative pilus biogenesis proteins have been constructed and the resulting mutants characterized with respect to the assembly and function of TCP. As a result of this analysis, we have identified the product of one of these genes, tcpF, as a novel secreted colonization factor. Chromosomal deletion of tcpF yields a mutant that retains in vitro phenotypes associated with the assembly of functional TCP yet is severely attenuated for colonization of the infant mouse intestine. Furthermore, we have determined that the mechanism by which TcpF is translocated across the bacterial outer membrane requires the TCP biogenesis machinery and is independent of the type II extracellular protein secretion (EPS) system. These results suggest a dual role for the TCP biogenesis apparatus in V. cholerae pathogenesis and a novel mechanism of intestinal colonization mediated by a soluble factor.