The type III secretion system (T3SS) is a supramolecular machine used by many bacterial pathogens to translocate effector proteins directly into the eukaryotic host cell cytoplasm. Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is an important cause of infantile diarrheal disease in underdeveloped countries. EPEC virulence relies on a T3SS encoded within a chromosomal pathogenicity island known as the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). In this work, we pursued the functional characterization of the LEE-encoded protein EscK (previously known as Orf4). We provide evidence indicating that EscK is crucial for efficient T3S and belongs to the SctK (OrgA/YscK/MxiK) protein family, whose members have been implicated in the formation of a sorting platform for secretion of T3S substrates. Bacterial fractionation studies showed that EscK localizes to the inner membrane independently of the presence of any other T3SS component. Combining yeast two-hybrid screening and pulldown assays, we identified an interaction between EscK and the C-ring/sorting platform component EscQ. Site-directed mutagenesis of conserved residues revealed amino acids that are critical for EscK function and for its interaction with EscQ. In addition, we found that T3S substrate overproduction is capable of compensating for the absence of EscK. Overall, our data suggest that EscK is a structural component of the EPEC T3SS sorting platform, playing a central role in the recruitment of T3S substrates for boosting the efficiency of the protein translocation process.
Última actualización: 24/07/2017