Controlling injection: regulation of type III secretion in enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli

Trends Microbiol. 2009 Aug;17(8):361-70. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2009.06.001. Epub 2009 Aug 5.


Type III secretion (T3S) systems enable the injection of bacterial proteins through membrane barriers into host cells, either from outside the host cell or from within a vacuole. This system is required for colonization of their ruminant reservoir hosts by enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) and might also be important for the etiology of disease in the incidental human host. T3S systems of E. coli inject a cocktail of proteins into epithelial cells that enables bacterial attachment and promotes longer-term colonization in the animal. Here, we review recent progress in our understanding of the regulation of T3S in EHEC, focusing on the induction and assembly of the T3S system, the co-ordination of effector protein expression, and the timing of effector protein export through the apparatus. Strain variation is often associated with differences in bacteriophages encoding the production of Shiga toxin and in multiple cryptic prophage elements that can encode effector proteins and T3S regulators. It is evident that this repertoire of phage-related sequences results in the different levels of T3S demonstrated between strains, with implications for EHEC epidemiology and strain evolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral*
  • Humans
  • Macromolecular Substances / metabolism*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Prophages / physiology*
  • Protein Transport
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Virulence Factors