VirB8: a conserved type IV secretion system assembly factor and drug target

Biochem Cell Biol. 2006 Dec;84(6):890-9. doi: 10.1139/o06-148.


Type IV secretion systems are used by many gram-negative bacteria for the translocation of macromolecules (proteins, DNA, or DNA-protein complexes) across the cell envelope. Among them are many pathogens for which type IV secretion systems are essential virulence factors. Type IV secretion systems comprise 8-12 conserved proteins, which assemble into a complex spanning the inner and the outer membrane, and many assemble extracellular appendages, such as pili, which initiate contact with host and recipient cells followed by substrate translocation. VirB8 is an essential assembly factor for all type IV secretion systems. Biochemical, cell biological, genetic, and yeast two-hybrid analyses showed that VirB8 undergoes multiple interactions with other type IV secretion system components and that it directs polar assembly of the membrane-spanning complex in the model organism Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The availability of the VirB8 X-ray structure has enabled a detailed structure-function analysis, which identified sites for the binding of VirB4 and VirB10 and for self-interaction. Due to its multiple interactions, VirB8 is an excellent model for the analysis of assembly factors of multiprotein complexes. In addition, VirB8 is a possible target for drugs that target its protein-protein interactions, which would disarm bacteria by depriving them of their essential virulence functions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / genetics
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / chemistry*
  • Virulence Factors / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Virulence Factors