Salmonella type III secretion-associated chaperones confer secretion-pathway specificity


  • Dedicated to the memory of Dr Robert Macnab, a wonderful colleague and a brilliant scientist.


Type III protein secretion systems (TTSSs) are ancestrally related to the flagellar export system and are essential for the virulence of many bacteria pathogenic for humans, animals and plants. Most proteins destined to travel the TTSS pathway possess at least two domains that specifically target them to the secretion apparatus. One of the domains is located within the amino terminal first ∼20 amino acids and the second domain, located within the first ∼140 amino acids, serves as a binding site for specific chaperones. It has been previously proposed that these two secretion signals are capable of operating independently of one another to facilitate secretion into the extracellular environment. We have found that in the absence of their chaperone-binding domains, the Salmonella typhimurium TTSS-secreted proteins SptP and SopE are no longer targeted for secretion through their cognate TTSS and, instead, are secreted through the flagellar export pathway. These results indicate the existence of an ‘ancestral’ flagellar secretion signal within TTSS-exported proteins that is revealed in the absence of the chaperone-binding domain. Furthermore, we found that secretion into culture supernatants as well as translocation into host cells by the cognate TTSS require both, the amino terminal and chaperone-binding domains. We conclude from these studies that a critical function for the TTSS-associated chaperones is to confer secretion-pathway specificity to their cognate secreted proteins.