SepA, the major extracellular protein of Shigella flexneri: autonomous secretion and involvement in tissue invasion

Authors

  • Zineb Benjelloun-Touimi,

    1. Unité de Pathogénie Microbienne Moléculaire and Unité INSERM U389, Institut Pasteur, 28 rue du Docteur Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France
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  • Philippe J. Sansonetti,

    1. Unité de Pathogénie Microbienne Moléculaire and Unité INSERM U389, Institut Pasteur, 28 rue du Docteur Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France
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  • Claude Parsot

    Corresponding author
    • *For correspondence. E-mail cparsot@pasteur.fr; Tel. (1) 40 61 30 95; Fax (1) 45 68 89 53.

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Abstract

In addition to lpa proteins and lcsA, which are involved in entry into epithelial cells and intercellular spread, respectively, Shigella secretes a 110 kDa protein, designated SepA. We report the identification, cloning, and nucleotide sequence determination of the sepA gene, analysis of SepA secretion, and construction and characterization of a sepA mutant. The sepA gene is carried by the virulence plasmid and codes for a 150 kDa precursor. Upon secretion, which does not involve accessory proteins encoded by the virulence plasmid, the precursor is converted to a mature protein of 110 kDa by two cleavages removing an N-terminal signal sequence and a C-terminal fragment. Extensive similarities were detected between the sequence of the first 500 residues of mature SepA and the N-terminal region of lgA1 proteases from Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Haemophilus influenzae, the Tsh haemagglutinin of an avian pathogenic Escherichia coli, and the Hap protein involved in adhesion and penetration of H. influenzae. The C-terminal domain of the SepA precursor, which is not present in the secreted protein, exhibits sequence similarity with pertactin of Bordetella pertussis and the ring-forming protein of Helicobacter mustelae. Construction and phenotypic characterization of a sepA mutant indicated that SepA is required neither for entry into cultured epithelial cells nor for intercellular dissemination. However, in the rabbit ligated ileal loop model, the sepA mutant exhibited an attenuated virulence, which suggests that SepA might play a role in tissue invasion.

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