The Underlying Mechanisms of Type II Protein Secretion

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2004 Nov 11;1694(1-3):163-79. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2004.05.003.


The cell envelope of Gram-negative bacteria is composed of two membranes, which are separated by the peptidoglycan-containing periplasm. Whereas the envelope forms an essential barrier against harmful substances, it is nevertheless a compartment of intense traffic for large proteins such as enzymes and toxins. Numerous studies dealing with the molecular mechanism of protein secretion have revealed that Gram-negative bacteria evolved different strategies to achieve this process. Among them, the type II secretion mechanism is part of a two-step process. Exoproteins following this pathway are synthesized as signal peptide-containing precursors. After cleavage of the signal peptide, the mature exoproteins are released into the periplasm, where they fold. The type II machinery, also known as the secreton, is responsible for the translocation of the periplasmic intermediates across the OM. The type II system is broadly conserved in Gram-negative bacteria and involves a set of 12-16 different proteins named GspC-M, GspAB, GspN, GspO, and GspS. The type II secretion system is highly reminiscent of the type IV piliation assembly system. Based on findings about the subcellular localisation of the Gsp components, protein-protein interactions between Gsps and their multimerisation status, structural data and electron microscopy observation, it could be proposed a working model that strikingly runs both systems in parallel.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology*
  • Fimbriae Proteins / genetics
  • Fimbriae Proteins / metabolism
  • Fimbriae Proteins / physiology
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / physiology*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Transport / physiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Fimbriae Proteins