Specificity of the type II secretion systems of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae for heat-labile enterotoxin and cholera toxin.
The Gram-negative type II secretion (T2S) system is a multiprotein complex mediating the release of virulence factors from a number of pathogens. While an understanding of the function of T2S components is emerging, little is known about what identifies substrates for export. To investigate T2S substrate recognition, we compared mutations affecting the secretion of two highly homologous substrates: heat-labile enterotoxin (LT) from enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) and cholera toxin (CT) from Vibrio cholerae. Each toxin consists of one enzymatic A subunit and a ring of five B subunits mediating the toxin's secretion. Here, we report two mutations in LT's B subunit (LTB) that reduce its secretion from ETEC without global effects on the toxin. The Q3K mutation reduced levels of secreted LT by half, and as with CT (T. D. Connell, D. J. Metzger, M. Wang, M. G. Jobling, and R. K. Holmes, Infect. Immun. 63:4091-4098, 1995), the E11K mutation impaired LT secretion. Results in vitro and in vivo show that these mutants are not degraded more readily than wild-type LT. The Q3K mutation did not significantly affect CT B subunit (CTB) secretion from V. cholerae, and the E11A mutation altered LT and CTB secretion to various extents, indicating that these toxins are identified as secretion substrates in different ways. The levels of mutant LTB expressed in V. cholerae were low or undetectable, but each CTB mutant expressed and secreted at wild-type levels in ETEC. Therefore, ETEC's T2S system seems to accommodate mutations in CTB that impair the secretion of LTB. Our results highlight the exquisitely fine-tuned relationship between T2S substrates and their coordinate secretion machineries in different bacterial species.
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