Modified needle-tip PcrV proteins reveal distinct phenotypes relevant to the control of type III secretion and intoxication by Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Hiromi Sato, Meredith L Hunt, Joshua J Weiner, Andrew T Hansen, Dara W Frank
PloS One 2011, 6 (3): e18356
The type III secretion system (T3SS) is employed to deliver effector proteins to the cytosol of eukaryotic hosts by multiple species of Gram-negative bacteria, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Translocation of effectors is dependent on the proteins encoded by the pcrGVHpopBD operon. These proteins form a T3S translocator complex, composed of a needle-tip complex (PcrV), translocons (PopB and PopD), and chaperones (PcrG and PcrH). PcrV mediates the folding and insertion of PopB/PopD in host plasmic membranes, where assembled translocons form a translocation channel. Assembly of this complex and delivery of effectors through this machinery is tightly controlled by PcrV, yet the multifunctional aspects of this molecule have not been defined. In addition, PcrV is a protective antigen for P. aeruginosa infection as is the ortholog, LcrV, for Yersinia. We constructed PcrV derivatives containing in-frame linker insertions and site-specific mutations. The expression of these derivatives was regulated by a T3S-specific promoter in a pcrV-null mutant of PA103. Nine derivatives disrupted the regulation of effector secretion and constitutively released an effector protein into growth medium. Three of these regulatory mutants, in which the linker was inserted in the N-terminal globular domain, were competent for the translocation of a cytotoxin, ExoU, into eukaryotic host cells. We also isolated strains expressing a delayed-toxicity phenotype, which secrete translocators slowly despite the normal level of effector secretion. Most of the cytotoxic translocation-competent strains retained the protective epitope of PcrV derivatives, and Mab166 was able to protect erythrocytes during infection with these strains. The use of defined PcrV derivatives possessing distinct phenotypes may lead to a better understanding of the functional aspects of T3 needle-tip proteins and the development of therapeutic agents or vaccines targeting T3SS-mediated intoxication.

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