Membrane translocation process revealed by in situ structures of type II secretion system secretins

Nat Commun. 2023 Jul 7;14(1):4025. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-39583-2.


The GspD secretin is the outer membrane channel of the bacterial type II secretion system (T2SS) which secrets diverse toxins that cause severe diseases such as diarrhea and cholera. GspD needs to translocate from the inner to the outer membrane to exert its function, and this process is an essential step for T2SS to assemble. Here, we investigate two types of secretins discovered so far in Escherichia coli, GspDα, and GspDβ. By electron cryotomography subtomogram averaging, we determine in situ structures of key intermediate states of GspDα and GspDβ in the translocation process, with resolution ranging from 9 Å to 19 Å. In our results, GspDα and GspDβ present entirely different membrane interaction patterns and ways of transitioning the peptidoglycan layer. From this, we hypothesize two distinct models for the membrane translocation of GspDα and GspDβ, providing a comprehensive perspective on the inner to outer membrane biogenesis of T2SS secretins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins* / chemistry
  • Secretin / chemistry
  • Type II Secretion Systems* / chemistry


  • Type II Secretion Systems
  • Secretin
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins