Single-domain antibodies pinpoint potential targets within Shigella invasion plasmid antigen D of the needle tip complex for inhibition of type III secretion

J Biol Chem. 2017 Oct 6;292(40):16677-16687. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M117.802231. Epub 2017 Aug 25.


Numerous Gram-negative pathogens infect eukaryotes and use the type III secretion system (T3SS) to deliver effector proteins into host cells. One important T3SS feature is an extracellular needle with an associated tip complex responsible for assembly of a pore-forming translocon in the host cell membrane. Shigella spp. cause shigellosis, also called bacillary dysentery, and invade colonic epithelial cells via the T3SS. The tip complex of Shigella flexneri contains invasion plasmid antigen D (IpaD), which initially regulates secretion and provides a physical platform for the translocon pore. The tip complex represents a promising therapeutic target for many important T3SS-containing pathogens. Here, in an effort to further elucidate its function, we created a panel of single-VH domain antibodies (VHHs) that recognize distinct epitopes within IpaD. These VHHs recognized the in situ tip complex and modulated the infectious properties of Shigella Moreover, structural elucidation of several IpaD-VHH complexes provided critical insights into tip complex formation and function. Of note, one VHH heterodimer could reduce Shigella hemolytic activity by >80%. Our observations along with previous findings support the hypothesis that the hydrophobic translocator (IpaB in Shigella) likely binds to a region within the tip protein that is structurally conserved across all T3SS-possessing pathogens, suggesting potential therapeutic avenues for managing infections by these pathogens.

Keywords: IpaD; Shigella; crystal structure; microbial pathogenesis; single-domain antibody (sdAb, nanobody); type III secretion system (T3SS); virulence factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Bacterial / genetics
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / immunology*
  • Bacterial Secretion Systems / genetics
  • Bacterial Secretion Systems / immunology*
  • Camelids, New World
  • Directed Molecular Evolution
  • Epitopes / genetics
  • Epitopes / immunology*
  • Shigella flexneri / genetics
  • Shigella flexneri / immunology*
  • Single-Chain Antibodies / immunology*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Secretion Systems
  • Epitopes
  • IpaD protein, Shigella flexneri
  • Single-Chain Antibodies

Associated data

  • PDB/2J0O
  • PDB/5VXK
  • PDB/5VXJ
  • PDB/5VXL
  • PDB/5VXM