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Three-dimensional electron microscopy reconstruction and cysteine-mediated crosslinking provide a model of the T3SS needle tip complex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Martin Cheung
  • Dakang Shen
  • Fumiaki Makino
  • Takayuki Kato
  • A Dorothea Roehrich
  • Isabel Martinez-Argudo
  • Matthew L Walker
  • Isabel Murillo
  • Xia Liu
  • Maria Pain
  • James Brown
  • Gordon Frazer
  • Judith Mantell
  • Petros Mina
  • Thomas Todd
  • Richard B Sessions
  • Keiichi Namba
  • Ariel J Blocker
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-50
JournalMolecular Microbiology
DatePublished - 29 Oct 2014


Type III secretion systems are found in many Gram-negative bacteria. They are activated by contact with eukaryotic cells and inject virulence proteins inside them. Host cell detection requires a protein complex located at the tip of the device's external injection needle. The tip complex (TC) is composed of IpaD, a hydrophilic protein, and IpaB, a hydrophobic protein, which later forms part of the injection pore in the host membrane. Here we used labelling and crosslinking methods to show that TCs from a ΔipaB strain contain 5 IpaD subunits while the TCs from wild-type can also contain 1 IpaB and 4 IpaD subunits. Electron microscopy followed by single particle and helical image analysis was used to reconstruct three-dimensional images of TCs at ∼20 Å resolution. Docking of an IpaD crystal structure, constrained by the crosslinks observed, reveals TC organisation is different from that of all previously proposed models. Our findings suggest new mechanisms for tip complex assembly and function. The tip complex is the only site within these secretion systems targeted by disease-protecting antibodies. By suggesting how these act, our work will allow improvement of prophylactic and therapeutic strategies.

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