The Type VI Secretion System in Escherichia coli and Related Species

EcoSal Plus. 2016 May;7(1). doi: 10.1128/ecosalplus.ESP-0009-2015.


The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a multiprotein complex widespread in Proteobacteria and dedicated to the delivery of toxins into both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. It thus participates in interbacterial competition as well as pathogenesis. The T6SS is a contractile weapon, related to the injection apparatus of contractile tailed bacteriophages. Basically, it assembles an inner tube wrapped by a sheath-like structure and anchored to the cell envelope via a membrane complex. The energy released by the contraction of the sheath propels the inner tube through the membrane channel and toward the target cell. Although the assembly and the mechanism of action are conserved across species, the repertoire of secreted toxins and the diversity of the regulatory mechanisms and of target cells make the T6SS a highly versatile secretion system. The T6SS is particularly represented in Escherichia coli pathotypes and Salmonella serotypes. In this review we summarize the current knowledge regarding the prevalence, the assembly, the regulation, and the roles of the T6SS in E. coli, Salmonella, and related species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteriophages / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Membrane
  • Enterobacteriaceae / genetics
  • Enterobacteriaceae / metabolism*
  • Enterobacteriaceae / pathogenicity
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Salmonella / genetics
  • Salmonella / metabolism
  • Salmonella / pathogenicity
  • Type VI Secretion Systems / genetics*
  • Type VI Secretion Systems / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Type VI Secretion Systems