Type VI secretion systems (T6SS) are macromolecular complexes present in Gram-negative bacteria. T6SS are structurally similar to the bacteriophage cell-puncturing device and have been shown to mediate bacteria-host or bacteria-bacteria interactions. T6SS assemble from 13 to 20 proteins. In enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC), one of the subassemblies is composed of four proteins that form a trans-envelope complex: the TssJ outer membrane lipoprotein, the peptidoglycan-anchored inner membrane TagL protein, and two putative inner membrane proteins, TssL and TssM. In this study, we characterized the TssL protein of the EAEC Sci-1 T6SS in terms of localization, topology, and function. TssL is a critical component of the T6SS, anchored to the inner membrane through a single transmembrane segment located at the extreme C-terminus of the protein. We further show that this transmembrane segment is essential for the function of the protein and its proper insertion in the inner membrane is dependent upon YidC and modulated by the Hsp70 homologue DnaK.
Keywords: Hcp; inner membrane; insertion; protein trafficking; topology.