Helical structure of the needle of the type III secretion system of Shigella flexneri.

Frank S Cordes, Kaoru Komoriya, Eric Larquet, Shixin Yang, Edward H Egelman, Ariel Blocker, Susan M Lea


Gram-negative bacteria commonly interact with animal and plant hosts using type III secretion systems (TTSSs) for translocation of proteins into eukaryotic cells during infection. 10 of the 25 TTSS-encoding genes are homologous to components of the bacterial flagellar basal body, which the TTSS needle complex morphologically resembles. This indicates a common ancestry, although no TTSS sequence homologues for the genes encoding the flagellum are found. We here present an approximately 16-A structure of the central component, the needle, of the TTSS. Although the needle subunit is significantly smaller and shares no sequence homology with the flagellar hook and filament, it shares a common helical architecture ( approximately 5.6 subunits/turn, 24-A helical pitch). This common architecture implies that there will be further mechanistic analogies in the functioning of these two bacterial systems.