The type III secretion system (T3SS) is a multi-protein complex that plays a central role in the virulence of many Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. In enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, a prevalent cause of diarrheal diseases, the needle complex base of the T3SS is formed by multi-rings: two concentric inner-membrane rings made by the two oligomerizing proteins (EscD and EscJ), and an outer ring made of a single oligomerizing protein (EscC). Although the oligomerization activity of these proteins is critical for their function and can, therefore, affect the virulence of the pathogen, the mechanisms underlying the oligomerization of these proteins have yet to be identified. In this study, we report that the proteins forming the inner-membrane T3SS rings, EscJ and EscD proteins, are crucial for the oligomerization of EscC. Moreover, we elucidate the oligomerization process of EscD and determine the contribution of individual regions of the protein to its self-oligomerization activity. We show that the oligomerization motif of EscD is located at its N-terminal portion and that its transmembrane domain can self-oligomerize, thus contributing to the self-oligomerization of the full-length EscD.
Keywords: Enteropathogenic E. coli; EscD; Protein oligomerization; Transmembrane domains; Type 3 secretion system.
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