The unipolar Shigella surface protein IcsA is targeted directly to the bacterial old pole: IcsP cleavage of IcsA occurs over the entire bacterial surface

Mol Microbiol. 1999 Apr;32(2):367-77. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1999.01356.x.


Shigella flexneri is an intracellular pathogen that is able to move within the cytoplasm of infected cells by the continual assembly of actin onto one pole of the bacterium. IcsA, an outer membrane protein, is localized to the old pole of the bacterium and is both necessary and sufficient for actin assembly. IcsA is slowly cleaved from the bacterial surface by the protease IcsP (SopA). Absence of IcsP leads to an alteration in the distribution of surface IcsA, such that the polar cap is maintained and some IcsA is distributed along the lateral walls of the bacillus. The mechanism of unipolar localization of IcsA and the role of IcsP in its unipolar localization are incompletely understood. Here, we demonstrate that cleavage of IcsA occurs exclusively in the outer membrane and that IcsP is localized to the outer membrane. In addition, we show that IcsA at the old pole is susceptible to cleavage by IcsP and that native IcsP is active at the pole. Taken together, these data indicate that IcsP cleaves IcsA over the entire bacterial surface. Finally, we show that, immediately after induction from a tightly regulated promoter, IcsA is expressed exclusively at the old pole in both the icsP- icsA- and the icsA- background. These data demonstrate that unipolar localization of IcsA results from its direct targeting to the pole, followed by its diffusion laterally in the outer membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Fractionation
  • Cell Polarity
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Shigella flexneri / genetics
  • Shigella flexneri / growth & development
  • Shigella flexneri / metabolism*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Actins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • virG protein, Shigella flexneri
  • SopA protein, Bacteria