The bacterial injection kit: type III secretion systems

Ann Med. 2005;37(4):234-49. doi: 10.1080/07853890510037329.


Type III secretion (T3S) systems are widespread among Gram-negative bacteria pathogenic for animals and plants, including Yersinia spp., Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, or Pseudomonas spp. T3S systems allow bacteria to inject virulence proteins, called T3S effectors, into the cytosol of their eukaryotic host cells. These virulence factors will paralyze or reprogram the eukaryotic cell to the benefit of the pathogen. T3S effectors display a large repertoire of biochemical activities and modulate the function of crucial host regulatory molecules such as small guanosine triphosphate (GTP)-binding proteins, mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB, or phosphoinositides. The activity of T3S effectors allows bacteria, for example, to invade non-phagocytic cells or to inhibit phagocytosis, to downregulate or promote pro-inflammatory responses, to induce apoptosis, to prevent autophagy, or to modulate intracellular trafficking. In this review, we present the most recent advances in the understanding of the mode of action of T3S effectors. We highlight the biochemical activities of these eukaryotic-like bacterial proteins that are shared among pathogens carrying T3S systems and the sequence, structural and functional resemblances between T3S effectors and eukaryotic proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Protein Transport
  • Virulence / physiology


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins