Abundance of bacterial Type VI secretion system components measured by targeted proteomics

Nat Commun. 2019 Jun 13;10(1):2584. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10466-9.


The Type VI secretion system (T6SS) is important for bacterial competition as well as virulence in many Gram-negative bacteria and its dynamics and regulation varies significantly between species. To gain insights into the mechanisms regulating T6SS assembly, we apply targeted proteomics to determine the abundance of the key T6SS components in Vibrio cholerae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baylyi. We show that while there are species specific exceptions, the abundance of most components is similar in all three bacteria and ranges from less than hundred to tens of thousands of copies per cell. The comparison of T6SS dynamics and protein abundance in V. cholerae grown under various conditions suggests that the critical component TssE and the secreted protein VasX are unstable and this diminishes T6SS assembly when protein synthesis is limited. Our quantitative analysis opens possibilities to build realistic models of T6SS assembly and to identify principles of T6SS regulation in various species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / analysis*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Isotope Labeling / methods
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Protein Stability
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Type VI Secretion Systems / analysis*
  • Type VI Secretion Systems / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Type VI Secretion Systems