FlaC, a protein of Campylobacter jejuni TGH9011 (ATCC43431) secreted through the flagellar apparatus, binds epithelial cells and influences cell invasion

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Summary

Type III secretion systems identified in bacterial pathogens of animals and plants transpose effectors and toxins directly into the cytosol of host cells or into the extracellular milieu. Proteins of the type III secretion apparatus are conserved among diverse and distantly related bacteria. Many type III apparatus proteins have homologues in the flagellar export apparatus, supporting the notion that type III secretion systems evolved from the flagellar export apparatus. No type III secretion apparatus genes have been found in the complete genomic sequence of Campylobacter jejuni NCTC11168. In this study, we report the characterization of a protein designated FlaC of C. jejuni TGH9011. FlaC is homologous to the N- and C-terminus of the C. jejuni flagellin proteins, FlaA and FlaB, but lacks the central portion of these proteins. flaC null mutants form a morphologically normal flagellum and are highly motile. In wild-type C. jejuni cultures, FlaC is found predominantly in the extracellular milieu as a secreted protein. Null mutants of the flagellar basal rod gene (flgF) and hook gene (flgE) do not secrete FlaC, suggesting that a functional flagellar export apparatus is required for FlaC secretion. During C. jejuni infection in vitro, secreted FlaC and purified recombinant FlaC bind to HEp-2 cells. Invasion of HEp-2 cells by flaC null mutants was reduced to a level of 14% compared with wild type, suggesting that FlaC plays an important role in cell invasion.

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