Shiga toxin-encoding Escherichia coli (STEC) regroup strains that carry genes encoding Shiga toxin (Stx). Among intestinal pathogenic E. coli, enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) constitute the major subgroup of virulent STEC. EHEC cause serious human disease such as haemorrhagic colitis and haemolytic-uremic syndrome. While EHEC have evolved from enteropathogenic E. coli, hybrids with enteroaggregative E. coli have recently emerged. Of note, some enteroinvasive E. coli also belong to the STEC group. While the LEE (locus of enterocyte effacement) is a key and prominent molecular determinant in the pathogenicity, neither all EHEC nor STEC contain the LEE, suggesting that they possess additional virulence and colonisation factors. Currently, nine protein secretion systems have been described in diderm-lipopolysaccharide bacteria (archetypal Gram-negative) and can be involved in the secretion of extracellular effectors, cell-surface proteins or assembly of cell-surface organelles, such as flagella or pili. In this review, we focus on the secretome of STEC and related enteropathotypes, which are relevant to the colonisation of biotic and abiotic surfaces. Considering the wealth of potential protein trafficking mechanisms, the different combinations of colonisation factors and modulation of their expression is further emphasised with regard to the ecophysiology of STEC.
Keywords: autotransporters; bacterial protein secretion; cell-surface display; outer membrane proteins; secretion systems; surface organelle.
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