The Enigmatic Esx Proteins: Looking Beyond Mycobacteria

Trends Microbiol. 2017 Mar;25(3):192-204. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2016.11.004. Epub 2016 Nov 25.


Bacteria export proteins across membranes using a range of transport machineries. Type VII secretion systems (T7SSs), originally described in mycobacteria, are now known to be widespread across diverse bacterial phyla. Recent studies have characterized secretion components and mechanisms of type VII secretion in pathogenic and environmental bacteria. A variety of functions have been attributed to T7SS substrates, including interactions with eukaryotes and with other bacteria. Here, we evaluate the growing body of knowledge on T7SSs, with focus on the nonmycobacterial systems, reviewing their phylogenetic distribution, structure and function in diverse settings.

Keywords: Esx; WXG100; toxin–antitoxin; type VII secretion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport / genetics
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • Type VII Secretion Systems / metabolism*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • ESAT-6 protein, Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Type VII Secretion Systems