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Keywords:

  • Pseudomonas;
  • Type III secretion system;
  • V-antigen;
  • Yersinia

ABSTRACT

Gram-negative bacteria cause many types of infections in animals from fish and shrimps to humans. Bacteria use Type III secretion systems (TTSSs) to translocate their toxins directly into eukaryotic cells. The V-antigen is a multifunctional protein required for the TTSS in Yersinia and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. V-antigen vaccines and anti-V-antigen antisera confer protection against Yersinia or P. aeruginosa infections in animal models. The V-antigen forms a pentameric cap structure at the tip of the Type III secretory needle; this structure, which has evolved from the bacterial flagellar cap structure, is indispensable for toxin translocation. Various pathogenic gram-negative bacteria such as Photorhabdus luminescens, Vibrio spp., and Aeromonas spp. encode homologs of the V-antigen. Because the V-antigens of pathogenic gram-negative bacteria play a key role in toxin translocation, they are potential therapeutic targets for combatting bacterial virulence. In the USA and Europe, these vaccines and specific antibodies against V-antigens are in clinical trials investigating the treatment of Yersinia or P. aeruginosa infections. Pathogenic gram-negative bacteria are of great interest because of their ability to infect fish and shrimp farms, their potential for exploitation in biological terrorism attacks, and their ability to cause opportunistic infections in humans. Thus, elucidation of the roles of the V-antigen in the TTSS and mechanisms by which these functions can be blocked is critical to facilitating the development of improved anti-V-antigen strategies.