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By funneling protein effectors through needle complexes located on the cellular membrane, bacteria are able to infect host cells during type III secretion events. The spatio-temporal mechanisms through which these events occur are however not fully understood, due in part to the inherent challenges in tracking single molecules moving within an intracellular medium. As a result, theoretical predictions of secretion times are still lacking. Here we provide a model that quantifies, depending on the transport characteristics within bacterial cytoplasm, the amount of time for a protein effector to reach either of the available needle complexes. Using parameters from Shigella flexneri we are able to test the role that translocators might have to activate the needle complexes and offer semi-quantitative explanations of recent experimental observations.
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