Structural and functional aspects of unique type IV secretory components in the Helicobacter pylori cag-pathogenicity island


G. Zanotti, Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Padua, Viale G. Colombo 3, 35121 Padua, Italy
Fax: +39 0498073310
Tel: +39 0498276409


Helicobacter pylori cytotoxin-associated gene-pathogenicity island (cagPAI) is responsible for the secretion of the CagA effector through a type IV secretion system (T4SS) apparatus, as well as of peptidoglycan and possibly other not yet identified factors. Twenty-nine different polypeptide chains are encoded by this cluster of genes, although only some of them show a significant similarity with the constitutive elements of well characterized secretion systems from other bacteria. The other cagPAI components represent almost unique proteins in this scenario. The majority of the T4SS include approximately fifteen components, taking into account either the transmembrane complex subunits, ATPases or substrate factors. The composition of the cagPAI is very complex: it includes proteins most likely involved at different levels in the pilus assembly, stabilization and processing of secreted substrate, as well as regulatory particles possibly involved in the control of the entire apparatus. Despite recent findings with respect to components that play a role in the interaction with the host cell, the function of several cagPAI proteins remains unclear or unknown. This is particularly true for those that represent unique members with no clear similarity to those of other T4SS and no obvious evidence of involvement in the secretion of CagA or induction of pro-inflammatory responses. We summarize what is known about these accessory components, both from a molecular and structural point of view, as well as their putative physiological role.