Genomic and functional analysis of the type VI secretion system in Acinetobacter.

Weber BS, Miyata ST, Iwashkiw JA, Mortensen BL, Skaar EP, Pukatzki S, Feldman MF
PLoS One. 2013 8 (1): e55142

PMID: 23365692 · PMCID: PMC3554697 · DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0055142

The genus Acinetobacter is comprised of a diverse group of species, several of which have raised interest due to potential applications in bioremediation and agricultural purposes. In this work, we show that many species within the genus Acinetobacter possess the genetic requirements to assemble a functional type VI secretion system (T6SS). This secretion system is widespread among Gram negative bacteria, and can be used for toxicity against other bacteria and eukaryotic cells. The most studied species within this genus is A. baumannii, an emerging nosocomial pathogen that has become a significant threat to healthcare systems worldwide. The ability of A. baumannii to develop multidrug resistance has severely reduced treatment options, and strains resistant to most clinically useful antibiotics are frequently being isolated. Despite the widespread dissemination of A. baumannii, little is known about the virulence factors this bacterium utilizes to cause infection. We determined that the T6SS is conserved and syntenic among A. baumannii strains, although expression and secretion of the hallmark protein Hcp varies between strains, and is dependent on TssM, a known structural protein required for T6SS function. Unlike other bacteria, A. baumannii ATCC 17978 does not appear to use its T6SS to kill Escherichia coli or other Acinetobacter species. Deletion of tssM does not affect virulence in several infection models, including mice, and did not alter biofilm formation. These results suggest that the T6SS fulfils an important but as-yet-unidentified role in the various lifestyles of the Acinetobacter spp.

MeSH Terms (17)

Acinetobacter Acinetobacter baumannii Acinetobacter Infections Animals Bacterial Proteins Biofilms Female Gene Deletion Genes, Bacterial Genetic Loci Genome, Bacterial Mice Mice, Inbred C57BL Moths Secretory Pathway Survival Analysis Virulence

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