Identification of protein secretion systems in bacterial genomes

Sci Rep. 2016 Mar 16:6:23080. doi: 10.1038/srep23080.


Bacteria with two cell membranes (diderms) have evolved complex systems for protein secretion. These systems were extensively studied in some model bacteria, but the characterisation of their diversity has lagged behind due to lack of standard annotation tools. We built online and standalone computational tools to accurately predict protein secretion systems and related appendages in bacteria with LPS-containing outer membranes. They consist of models describing the systems' components and genetic organization to be used with MacSyFinder to search for T1SS-T6SS, T9SS, flagella, Type IV pili and Tad pili. We identified ~10,000 candidate systems in bacterial genomes, where T1SS and T5SS were by far the most abundant and widespread. All these data are made available in a public database. The recently described T6SS(iii) and T9SS were restricted to Bacteroidetes, and T6SS(ii) to Francisella. The T2SS, T3SS, and T4SS were frequently encoded in single-copy in one locus, whereas most T1SS were encoded in two loci. The secretion systems of diderm Firmicutes were similar to those found in other diderms. Novel systems may remain to be discovered, since some clades of environmental bacteria lacked all known protein secretion systems. Our models can be fully customized, which should facilitate the identification of novel systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Translocation Systems / classification
  • Protein Translocation Systems / genetics*
  • Protein Translocation Systems / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Protein Translocation Systems