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1.  EsaD, a Secretion Factor for the Ess Pathway in Staphylococcus aureus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(7):1583-1589.
Staphylococcus aureus encodes the Sec-independent Ess secretion pathway, an ortholog of mycobacterial T7 secretion systems which is required for the virulence of this Gram-positive microbe. The Ess (ESX secretion) pathway was previously defined as a genomic cluster of eight genes, esxA, esaA, essA, essB, esaB, essC, esaC, and esxB. essABC encode membrane proteins involved in the stable expression of esxA, esxB, and esaC, genes specifying three secreted polypeptide substrates. esaB, which encodes a small cytoplasmic protein, represses the synthesis of EsaC but not that of EsxA and EsxB. Here we investigated a hitherto uncharacterized gene, esaD, located downstream of esxB. Expression of esaD is activated by mutations in esaB and essB. EsaD, the 617-amino-acid product of esaD, is positioned in the membrane and is also accessible to EsaD-specific antibodies on the bacterial surface. S. aureus mutants lacking esaD are defective in the secretion of EsxA. Following intravenous inoculation of mice, S. aureus esaD mutants generate fewer abscesses with a reduced bacterial load compared to wild-type parent strain Newman. The chromosomes of Listeria and Bacillus species with Ess pathways also harbor esaD homologues downstream of esxB, suggesting that the contributory role of EsaD in Ess secretion may be shared among Gram-positive pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3067666  PMID: 21278286
2.  Secretion of atypical protein subtrates by the ESAT-6 Secretion System of Staphylococcus aureus 
Molecular microbiology  2013;90(4):734-743.
Staphylococcus aureus encodes the specialized ESAT-6 Secretion System (ESS). EsxA and EsxB are secreted by the ESS pathway, and share sequence features of ESAT-6 and CFP-10 of the Type VII Secretion System (T7SS) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Unlike ESAT-6 and CFP-10, EsxA and EsxB do not interact. Instead, EsxB associates with a novel substrate, EsxD, and EsxA dimerizes with itself or EsxC (EsaC). Unlike EsxA and EsxB, EsxC and EsxD do not share obvious sequence features of WXG100 proteins nor PE/PPE and Esp families of proteins, all of which belong to the pfam EsxAB clan of mycobacterial T7SS. EsxD carries the C terminal motif YxxxD/E that has been proposed to target T7 substrates for secretion in mycobacteria. Here, we find that deletion, but not amino acid substitutions, in this motif prevent secretion of EsxA and EsxC but not EsxB or EsxD. This is unlike the genetic inactivation of esxA, esxB, esxC or esxD that leads to loss of secretion of all four substrates. Thus, substrate secretion can be uncoupled by deleting the last six amino acids of EsxD. The physical association of EsxC and EsxD with canonical WXG100 proteins suggests that these proteins belong to the EsxAB clan.
PMCID: PMC3951145  PMID: 24033479
3.  EsaC substrate for the ESAT-6 Secretion Pathway and its role in persistent infections of S. aureus 
Molecular microbiology  2008;69(3):736-746.
Staphylococcus aureus encodes the specialized secretion system Ess (ESAT-6 secretion system). The ess locus is a cluster of eight genes (esxAB, essABC, esaABC) of which esxA and esxB display homology to secreted ESAT-6 proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. EsxA and EsxB require EssA, EssB and EssC for transport across the staphylococcal envelope. Herein, we examine the role of EsaB and EsaC and show that EsaB is a negative regulator of EsaC. Further, EsaC production is repressed when staphylococci are grown in broth and increased when staphylococci replicate in serum or infected hosts. EsaB is constitutively produced and remains in the cytoplasm whereas EsaC is secreted. This secretion requires an intact Ess pathway. Mutants lacking esaB or esaC display only a small defect in acute infection, but remarkably are unable to promote persistent abscesses during animal infection. Together, the data suggest a model whereby EsaB controls the production of effector molecules that are important for host pathogen interaction. One such effector, EsaC, is a secretion substrate of the Ess pathway and implements its pathogenic function during infection.
PMCID: PMC2597432  PMID: 18554323
WXG100 proteins; virulence; abscess formation
4.  Membrane interactions and self‐association of components of the Ess/Type VII secretion system of Staphylococcus aureus  
Febs Letters  2016;590(3):349-357.
The Ess/Type VII protein secretion system, essential for virulence of pathogenic Staphylococcus aureus, is dependent upon the four core membrane proteins EssA, EssB, EssC and EsaA. Here, we use crosslinking and blue native PAGE analysis to show that the EssB, EssC and EsaA proteins individually form homomeric complexes. Surprisingly, these components appear unable to interact with each other, or with the EssA protein. We further show that two high molecular weight multimers of EssC detected in whole cells are not dependent upon the presence of EsxA, EsxB or any other Ess component for their assembly.
PMCID: PMC4949537  PMID: 26785823
membrane protein complex; protein secretion; Staphylococcusaureus; Type VII secretion
5.  Heterogeneity in ess transcriptional organization and variable contribution of the Ess/Type VII protein secretion system to virulence across closely related Staphylocccus aureus strains 
Molecular Microbiology  2014;93(5):928-943.
The Type VII protein secretion system, found in Gram-positive bacteria, secretes small proteins, containing a conserved W-x-G amino acid sequence motif, to the growth medium. Staphylococcus aureus has a conserved Type VII secretion system, termed Ess, which is dispensable for laboratory growth but required for virulence. In this study we show that there are unexpected differences in the organization of the ess gene cluster between closely related strains of S. aureus. We further show that in laboratory growth medium different strains of S. aureus secrete the EsxA and EsxC substrate proteins at different growth points, and that the Ess system in strain Newman is inactive under these conditions. Systematic deletion analysis in S. aureus RN6390 is consistent with the EsaA, EsaB, EssA, EssB, EssC and EsxA proteins comprising core components of the secretion machinery in this strain. Finally we demonstrate that the Ess secretion machinery of two S. aureus strains, RN6390 and COL, is important for nasal colonization and virulence in the murine lung pneumonia model. Surprisingly, however, the secretion system plays no role in the virulence of strain SA113 under the same conditions.
PMCID: PMC4285178  PMID: 25040609
6.  Staphylococcal Esx Proteins Modulate Apoptosis and Release of Intracellular Staphylococcus aureus during Infection in Epithelial Cells 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(10):4144-4153.
The opportunistic pathogen Staphylococcus aureus is one of the major causes of health care-associated infections. S. aureus is primarily an extracellular pathogen, but it was recently reported to invade and replicate in several host cell types. The ability of S. aureus to persist within cells has been implicated in resistance to antimicrobials and recurrent infections. However, few staphylococcal proteins that mediate intracellular survival have been identified. Here we examine if EsxA and EsxB, substrates of the ESAT-6-like secretion system (Ess), are important during intracellular S. aureus infection. The Esx proteins are required for staphylococcal virulence, but their functions during infection are unclear. While isogenic S. aureus esxA and esxB mutants were not defective for epithelial cell invasion in vitro, a significant increase in early/late apoptosis was observed in esxA mutant-infected cells compared to wild-type-infected cells. Impeding secretion of EsxA by deleting C-terminal residues of the protein also resulted in a significant increase of epithelial cell apoptosis. Furthermore, cells transfected with esxA showed an increased protection from apoptotic cell death. A double mutant lacking both EsxA and EsxB also induced increased apoptosis but, remarkably, was unable to escape from cells as efficiently as the single mutants or the wild type. Thus, using in vitro models of intracellular staphylococcal infection, we demonstrate that EsxA interferes with host cell apoptotic pathways and, together with EsxB, mediates the release of S. aureus from the host cell.
PMCID: PMC4187876  PMID: 25047846
7.  Conservation of Structure and Protein-Protein Interactions Mediated by the Secreted Mycobacterial Proteins EsxA, EsxB, and EspA▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;192(1):326-335.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis EsxA and EsxB proteins are founding members of the WXG100 (WXG) protein family, characterized by their small size (∼100 amino acids) and conserved WXG amino acid motif. M. tuberculosis contains 11 tandem pairs of WXG genes; each gene pair is thought to be coexpressed to form a heterodimer. The precise role of these proteins in the biology of M. tuberculosis is unknown, but several of the heterodimers are secreted, which is important for virulence. However, WXG proteins are not simply virulence factors, since nonpathogenic mycobacteria also express and secrete these proteins. Here we show that three WXG heterodimers have structures and properties similar to those of the M. tuberculosis EsxBA (MtbEsxBA) heterodimer, regardless of their host species and apparent biological function. Biophysical studies indicate that the WXG proteins from M. tuberculosis (EsxG and EsxH), Mycobacterium smegmatis (EsxA and EsxB), and Corynebacterium diphtheriae (EsxA and EsxB) are heterodimers and fold into a predominately α-helical structure. An in vivo protein-protein interaction assay was modified to identify proteins that interact specifically with the native WXG100 heterodimer. MtbEsxA and MtbEsxB were fused into a single polypeptide, MtbEsxBA, to create a biomimetic bait for the native heterodimer. The MtbEsxBA bait showed specific association with several esx-1-encoded proteins and EspA, a virulence protein secreted by ESX-1. The MtbEsxBA fusion peptide was also utilized to identify residues in both EsxA and EsxB that are important for establishing protein interactions with Rv3871 and EspA. Together, the results are consistent with a model in which WXG proteins perform similar biological roles in virulent and nonvirulent species.
PMCID: PMC2798242  PMID: 19854905
8.  Characterization of Staphylococcus aureus EssB, an integral membrane component of the Type VII secretion system: atomic resolution crystal structure of the cytoplasmic segment 
Biochemical Journal  2012;449(Pt 2):469-477.
The Type VII protein translocation/secretion system, unique to Gram-positive bacteria, is a key virulence determinant in Staphylococcus aureus. We aim to characterize the architecture of this secretion machinery and now describe the present study of S. aureus EssB, a 52 kDa bitopic membrane protein essential for secretion of the ESAT-6 (early secretory antigenic target of 6 kDa) family of proteins, the prototypic substrate of Type VII secretion. Full-length EssB was heterologously expressed in Escherichia coli, solubilized from the bacterial membrane, purified to homogeneity and shown to be dimeric. A C-terminal truncation, EssB∆C, and two soluble fragments termed EssB-N and EssB-C, predicted to occur on either side of the cytoplasmic membrane, have been successfully purified in a recombinant form, characterized and, together with the full-length protein, used in crystallization trials. EssB-N, the 25 kDa N-terminal cytoplasmic fragment, gave well-ordered crystals and we report the structure, determined by SAD (single-wavelength anomalous diffraction) targeting an SeMet (selenomethionine) derivative, refined to atomic (1.05 Å; 1 Å=0.1 nm) resolution. EssB-N is dimeric in solution, but crystallizes as a monomer and displays a fold comprised of two globular domains separated by a cleft. The structure is related to that of serine/threonine protein kinases and the present study identifies that the Type VII secretion system exploits and re-uses a stable modular entity and fold that has evolved to participate in protein–protein interactions in a similar fashion to the catalytically inert pseudokinases.
PMCID: PMC3526858  PMID: 23098276
early secretory antigenic target of 6 kDa system 1 (ESX-1); Gram-positive bacterium; protein kinase; protein secretion; pseudokinase; X-ray crystallography; BAP, biotin-acceptor peptide; BCG, Bacille Calmette–Guérin; BN-PAGE, Blue native PAGE; CV, column volume; DDM, dodecyl maltoside; DOPC, 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine; DTT, dithiothreitol; ESAT-6, early secreted antigenic target of 6 kDa; ESI–Q–TOF-MS, electrospray ionization–quadrupole–time-of-flight MS; ESX-1, ESAT-6 system 1; ess, ESX-1 secretion system; IPTG, isopropyl-β-D-thiogalactopyranoside; LB, Luria–Bertani; MALDI–TOF-MS, matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization–time-of-flight MS; MWCO, molecular-mass cut-off; PEG3350, poly(ethylene glycol) 3350; rmsd, root-mean-square deviation; SAD, single-wavelength anomalous diffraction; SeMet, selenomethionine; SPR, surface plasmon resonance; TEV, tobacco etch virus; T7SS, Type VII secretion system
9.  WXG100 Protein Superfamily Consists of Three Subfamilies and Exhibits an α-Helical C-Terminal Conserved Residue Pattern 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89313.
Members of the WXG100 protein superfamily form homo- or heterodimeric complexes. The most studied proteins among them are the secreted T-cell antigens CFP-10 (10 kDa culture filtrate protein, EsxB) and ESAT-6 (6 kDa early secreted antigen target, EsxA) from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. They are encoded on an operon within a gene cluster, named as ESX-1, that encodes for the Type VII secretion system (T7SS). WXG100 proteins are secreted in a full-length form and it is known that they adopt a four-helix bundle structure. In the current work we discuss the evolutionary relationship between the homo- and heterodimeric WXG100 proteins, the basis of the oligomeric state and the key structural features of the conserved sequence pattern of WXG100 proteins. We performed an iterative bioinformatics analysis of the WXG100 protein superfamily and correlated this with the atomic structures of the representative WXG100 proteins. We find, firstly, that the WXG100 protein superfamily consists of three subfamilies: CFP-10-, ESAT-6- and sagEsxA-like proteins (EsxA proteins similar to that of Streptococcus agalactiae). Secondly, that the heterodimeric complexes probably evolved from a homodimeric precursor. Thirdly, that the genes of hetero-dimeric WXG100 proteins are always encoded in bi-cistronic operons and finally, by combining the sequence alignments with the X-ray data we identify a conserved C-terminal sequence pattern. The side chains of these conserved residues decorate the same side of the C-terminal α-helix and therefore form a distinct surface. Our results lead to a putatively extended T7SS secretion signal which combines two reported T7SS recognition characteristics: Firstly that the T7SS secretion signal is localized at the C-terminus of T7SS substrates and secondly that the conserved residues YxxxD/E are essential for T7SS activity. Furthermore, we propose that the specific α-helical surface formed by the conserved sequence pattern including YxxxD/E motif is a key component of T7SS-substrate recognition.
PMCID: PMC3935865  PMID: 24586681
10.  A β-Lactamase Based Reporter System for ESX Dependent Protein Translocation in Mycobacteria 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35453.
Protein secretion is essential for all bacteria in order to interact with their environment. Mycobacterium tuberculosis depends on protein secretion to subvert host immune response mechanisms. Both the general secretion system (Sec) and the twin-arginine translocation system (Tat) are functional in mycobacteria. Furthermore, a novel type of protein translocation system named ESX has been identified. In the genome of M. tuberculosis five paralogous ESX regions (ESX-1 to ESX-5) have been found. Several components of the ESX translocation apparatus have been identified over the last ten years. The ESX regions are composed of a basic set of genes for the translocation machinery and the main substrate - a heterodimer. The best studied of these heterodimers is EsxA (ESAT-6)/EsxB (CFP-10), which has been shown to be exported by ESX-1. EsxA/B is heavily involved in virulence of M. tuberculosis. EsxG/H is exported by ESX-3 and seems to be involved in an essential iron-uptake mechanism in M. tuberculosis. These findings make ESX-3 components high profile drug targets. Until now, reporter systems for determination of ESX protein translocation have not been developed. In order to create such a reporter system, a truncated β-lactamase (‘bla TEM-1) was fused to the N-terminus of EsxB, EsxG and EsxU, respectively. These constructs have then been tested in a β-lactamase (BlaS) deletion strain of Mycobacterium smegmatis. M. smegmatis ΔblaS is highly susceptible to ampicillin. An ampicillin resistant phenotype was conferred by translocation of Bla TEM-1-Esx fusion proteins into the periplasm. BlaTEM-1-Esx fusion proteins were not found in the culture filtrate suggesting that plasma membrane translocation and outer membrane translocation are two distinct steps in ESX secretion. Thus we have developed a powerful tool to dissect the molecular mechanisms of ESX dependent protein translocation and to screen for novel components of the ESX systems on a large scale.
PMCID: PMC3329429  PMID: 22530024
11.  ESAT-6-Like Protein Secretion in Bacillus anthracis▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(21):7004-7011.
Proteins of the WXG100 family represent the prototypical substrates of bacterial type VII secretion systems that typically encompass 100 residues, lack canonical signal peptides, and form helix-turn-helix hairpin structures with WXG positioned in the turn element. Bacillus anthracis encodes six WXG100 proteins, herein referred to as EsxB, EsxL, EsxP, EsxQ, EsxV, and EsxW. With the exception of EsxB, B. anthracis proteins harbor C-terminal extensions that are appended to canonical WXG domains. When cultured in liquid broth, B. anthracis secretes two substrates, EsxB and EsxW, into the extracellular environment. EsxB is required for the stability and secretion of EsxW; however, EsxW is dispensable for EsxB secretion. In agreement with the hypothesis that EsxB binding to substrates promotes recognition and secretion by the type VII pathway, EsxB is reported to interact with EsxB and EsxW. Unlike deletions in mycobacterial EsxB, deletion of five N- or C-terminal residues does not affect the ability of mutant B. anthracis EsxB to travel the type VII pathway and initiate secretion of EsxW. Translational fusion of ubiquitin to the N or C terminus of EsxB also had no effect, while ubiquitin insertion into the center turn abrogated secretion. Anthrax-infected guinea pigs mounted humoral immune responses to EsxB, EsxP, and EsxW, which suggests that B. anthracis activates the type VII secretion pathway during infection.
PMCID: PMC2580693  PMID: 18723613
12.  The Ess/Type VII secretion system of Staphylococcus aureus shows unexpected genetic diversity 
BMC Genomics  2016;17:222.
Type VII protein secretion (T7SS) is a specialised system for excreting extracellular proteins across bacterial cell membranes and has been associated with virulence in Staphylococcus aureus. The genetic diversity of the ess locus, which encodes the T7SS, and the functions of proteins encoded within it are poorly understood.
We used whole genome sequence data from 153 isolates representative of the diversity of the species to investigate the genetic variability of T7SS across S. aureus. The ess loci were found to comprise of four distinct modules based on gene content and relative conservation. Modules 1 and 4, comprising of the 5’ and 3’ modules of the ess locus, contained the most conserved clusters of genes across the species. Module 1 contained genes encoding the secreted protein EsxA, and the EsaAB and EssAB components of the T7SS machinery, and Module 4 contained two functionally uncharacterized conserved membrane proteins. Across the species four variants of Module 2 were identified containing the essC gene, each of which was associated with a specific group of downstream genes. The most diverse module of the ess locus was Module 3 comprising a highly variable arrangement of hypothetical proteins. RNA-Seq was performed on representatives of the four Module 2 variants and demonstrated strain-specific differences in the levels of transcription in the conserved Module 1 components and transcriptional linkage Module 2, and provided evidence of the expression of genes the variable regions of the ess loci.
The ess locus of S. aureus exhibits modularity and organisational variation across the species and transcriptional variation. In silico analysis of ess loci encoded hypothetical proteins identified potential novel secreted substrates for the T7SS. The considerable variety in operon arrangement between otherwise closely related isolates provides strong evidence for recombination at this locus. Comparison of these recombination regions with each other, and with the genomes of other Staphylococcal species, failed to identify evidence of intra- and inter-species recombination, however the analysis identified a novel T7SS in another pathogenic staphylococci, Staphylococcus lugdunensis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-016-2426-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4788903  PMID: 26969225
Staphylococcus aureus; Secretion; Type VII
13.  Structure of Staphylococcus aureus EsxA suggests a contribution to virulence by action as a transport chaperone and/or adaptor protein 
Journal of molecular biology  2008;383(3):603-614.
Staphylococcus aureus pathogenesis depends on a specialized protein secretion system, ESX-1, that delivers a range of virulence factors to assist infectivity. We report the characterization of two such factors, EsxA and EsxB; small acidic dimeric proteins carrying a distinctive WXG motif. EsxA crystallized in triclinic and monoclinic forms and high-resolution structures were determined. The asymmetric unit of each crystal form is a dimer. The EsxA subunit forms an elongated cylindrical structure created from side-by-side α-helices linked with a hairpin bend formed by the WXG motif. Approximately 25% of the solvent accessible surface area of each subunit is involved in interactions, predominantly hydrophobic, with the partner subunit. Secondary structure predictions suggest that EsxB displays a similar structure. The WXG motif helps to create a shallow cleft at each end of the dimer, forming a short β-sheet-like feature with an N-terminal segment of the partner subunit. Structural and sequence comparisons, exploiting biological data on related proteins found in Mycobacteria tuberculosis suggest that this family of proteins may contribute to pathogenesis by transporting protein cargo through the ESX-1 system exploiting a C-terminal secretion signal and / or are capable of acting as adaptor proteins to facilitate interactions with host receptor proteins.
PMCID: PMC3465917  PMID: 18773907
adaptor protein; chaperone; helical bundle; secretion system; virulence factor
14.  Opposing roles of σB and σB-controlled SpoVG in the global regulation of esxA in Staphylococcus aureus 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:17.
The production of virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus is tightly controlled by a complex web of interacting regulators. EsxA is one of the virulence factors that are excreted by the specialized, type VII-like Ess secretion system of S. aureus. The esxA gene is part of the σB-dependent SpoVG subregulon. However, the mode of action of SpoVG and its impact on other global regulators acting on esxA transcription is as yet unknown.
We demonstrate that the transcription of esxA is controlled by a regulatory cascade involving downstream σB-dependent regulatory elements, including the staphylococcal accessory regulator SarA, the ArlRS two-component system and SpoVG. The esxA gene, preceding the ess gene cluster, was shown to form a monocistronic transcript that is driven by a σA promoter, whereas a putative σB promoter identified upstream of the σA promoter was shown to be inactive. Transcription of esxA was strongly upregulated upon either sarA or sigB inactivation, but decreased in agr, arlR and spoVG single mutants, suggesting that agr, ArlR and SpoVG are able to increase esxA transcription and relieve the repressing effect of the σB-controlled SarA on esxA.
SpoVG is a σB-dependent element that fine-tunes the expression of esxA by counteracting the σB-induced repressing activity of the transcriptional regulator SarA and activates esxA transcription.
PMCID: PMC3313859  PMID: 22272815
15.  The ESX System in Bacillus subtilis Mediates Protein Secretion 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96267.
Esat-6 protein secretion systems (ESX or Ess) are required for the virulence of several human pathogens, most notably Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Staphylococcus aureus. These secretion systems are defined by a conserved FtsK/SpoIIIE family ATPase and one or more WXG100 family secreted substrates. Gene clusters coding for ESX systems have been identified amongst many organisms including the highly tractable model system, Bacillus subtilis. In this study, we demonstrate that the B. subtilis yuk/yue locus codes for a nonessential ESX secretion system. We develop a functional secretion assay to demonstrate that each of the locus gene products is specifically required for secretion of the WXG100 virulence factor homolog, YukE. We then employ an unbiased approach to search for additional secreted substrates. By quantitative profiling of culture supernatants, we find that YukE may be the sole substrate that depends on the FtsK/SpoIIIE family ATPase for secretion. We discuss potential functional implications for secretion of a unique substrate.
PMCID: PMC4010439  PMID: 24798022
16.  EsxB, a secreted protein from Bacillus anthracis forms two distinct helical bundles 
The EsxB protein from Bacillus anthracis belongs to the WXG100 family, a group of proteins secreted by a specialized secretion system. We have determined the crystal structures of recombinant EsxB and discovered that the small protein (∼10 kDa), comprised of a helix-loop-helix (HLH) hairpin, is capable of associating into two different helical bundles. The two basic quaternary assemblies of EsxB are an antiparallel (AP) dimer and a rarely observed bisecting U (BU) dimer. This structural duality of EsxB is believed to originate from the heptad repeat sequence diversity of the first helix of its HLH hairpin, which allows for two alternative helix packing. The flexibility of EsxB and the ability to form alternative helical bundles underscore the possibility that this protein can serve as an adaptor in secretion and can form hetero-oligomeric helix bundle(s) with other secreted members of the WXG100 family, such as EsxW. The highly conserved WXG motif is located within the loop of the HLH hairpin and is mostly buried within the helix bundle suggesting that its role is mainly structural. The exact functions of the motif, including a proposed role as a secretion signal, remain unknown.
PMCID: PMC4570534  PMID: 26032645
type VII secretion system; ESAT-6 like secretion system; WXG family; EsxB; helix bundle; antiparallel dimer; bisecting U dimer; tetramer
17.  EsxB, a secreted protein from B acillus anthracis forms two distinct helical bundles 
The EsxB protein from Bacillus anthracis belongs to the WXG100 family, a group of proteins secreted by a specialized secretion system. We have determined the crystal structures of recombinant EsxB and discovered that the small protein (∼10 kDa), comprised of a helix‐loop‐helix (HLH) hairpin, is capable of associating into two different helical bundles. The two basic quaternary assemblies of EsxB are an antiparallel (AP) dimer and a rarely observed bisecting U (BU) dimer. This structural duality of EsxB is believed to originate from the heptad repeat sequence diversity of the first helix of its HLH hairpin, which allows for two alternative helix packing. The flexibility of EsxB and the ability to form alternative helical bundles underscore the possibility that this protein can serve as an adaptor in secretion and can form hetero‐oligomeric helix bundle(s) with other secreted members of the WXG100 family, such as EsxW. The highly conserved WXG motif is located within the loop of the HLH hairpin and is mostly buried within the helix bundle suggesting that its role is mainly structural. The exact functions of the motif, including a proposed role as a secretion signal, remain unknown.
PDB Code(s): 4J10
PDB Code(s): 4IYI
PDB Code(s): 4J42
PDB Code(s): 4J41
PMCID: PMC4570534  PMID: 26032645
type VII secretion system; ESAT‐6 like secretion system; WXG family; EsxB; helix bundle; antiparallel dimer; bisecting U dimer; tetramer
18.  Homeostasis of N-α-Terminal Acetylation of EsxA Correlates with Virulence in Mycobacterium marinum 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(11):4572-4586.
The mycobacterial Esx-1 (ESAT-6 system 1) exporter translocates virulence factors across the cytoplasmic membrane to the cell wall, cell surface, and the bacteriological medium in vitro. The mechanisms underlying substrate targeting to distinct locations are unknown. Several Esx-1 substrates are N-α-terminally acetylated. The role of this rare modification in bacteria is unclear. We sought to identify genes required for Esx-1 substrate modification, transport, and localization. Pathogenic mycobacteria lyse Acanthamoeba castellanii in an Esx-1-dependent manner. We conducted a genetic screen to identify Mycobacterium marinum strains which failed to lyse amoebae. We identified a noncytotoxic M. marinum strain with a transposon insertion in a predicted N-α-terminal acetyltransferase not previously linked to mycobacterial pathogenesis. Disruption of this gene led to attenuation of virulence, failure to induce a type I interferon response during macrophage infection, and loss of hemolytic activity. The major Esx-1 substrates, EsxA and EsxB, were exported to the cell surface, but only low levels were released into the bacteriological medium. The balance of EsxA N-α-terminal acetylation was disrupted, resulting in a mycobacterial strain in which surface-associated EsxA was hyperacetylated. Genetic complementation completely restored Esx-1 function and the levels of N-α-terminally acetylated EsxA on the surface but restored only low levels of Esx-1 substrates in the bacteriological medium. Our results reveal a novel gene required for mycobacterial Esx-1 export. Our findings indicate that maintaining the homeostasis of Esx-1 substrate N-α-terminal acetylation is essential for Esx-1-mediated virulence. We propose an inverse correlation between EsxA acetylation and virulence.
PMCID: PMC4249322  PMID: 25135684
19.  A Novel ESX-1 Locus Reveals that Surface-Associated ESX-1 Substrates Mediate Virulence in Mycobacterium marinum 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(10):1877-1888.
EsxA (ESAT-6) and EsxB (CFP-10) are virulence factors exported by the ESX-1 system in mycobacterial pathogens. In Mycobacterium marinum, an established model for ESX-1 secretion in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, genes required for ESX-1 export reside at the extended region of difference 1 (RD1) locus. In this study, a novel locus required for ESX-1 export in M. marinum was identified outside the RD1 locus. An M. marinum strain bearing a transposon-insertion between the MMAR_1663 and MMAR_1664 genes exhibited smooth-colony morphology, was deficient for ESX-1 export, was nonhemolytic, and was attenuated for virulence. Genetic complementation revealed a restoration of colony morphology and a partial restoration of virulence in cell culture models. Yet hemolysis and the export of ESX-1 substrates into the bacteriological medium in vitro as measured by both immunoblotting and quantitative proteomics were not restored. We show that genetic complementation of the transposon insertion strain partially restored the translocation of EsxA and EsxB to the mycobacterial cell surface. Our findings indicate that the export of EsxA and EsxB to the cell surface, rather than secretion into the bacteriological medium, correlates with virulence in M. marinum. Together, these findings not only expand the known genetic loci required for ESX-1 secretion in M. marinum but also provide an explanation for the observed disparity between in vitro ESX-1 export and virulence.
PMCID: PMC4011007  PMID: 24610712
20.  The Architecture of EssB, an Integral Membrane Component of the Type VII Secretion System 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2013;21(4):595-603.
The membrane-bound EssB is an integral and essential component of the bacterial type VII secretion system that can contribute to pathogenicity. The architecture of Geobacillus thermodenitrificans EssB has been investigated by combining crystallographic and EPR spectroscopic methods. The protein forms a dimer that straddles the cytoplasmic membrane. A helical fold is observed for the C-terminal segment, which is positioned on the exterior of the membrane. This segment contributes most to dimer formation. The N-terminal segment displays a structure related to the pseudokinase fold and may contribute to function by recognizing substrates or secretion system partners. The remaining part of EssB may serve as an anchor point for the secretion apparatus, which is embedded in the cytoplasmic membrane with the C-terminal domain protruding out to interact with partner proteins or components of peptidoglycan.
Graphical Abstract
► EssB, a membrane-bound component of the type VII secretion system, forms a dimer ► The cytoplasmic segment EssB-N is remarkably similar to pseudokinases ► The extracellular C-terminal domain displays a helical fold ► PELDOR spectroscopy enabled construction of a model of the complete dimer
The architecture of EssB, an essential component of the type VII secretion system, derived from crystallographic and EPR methods by Zoltner et al., reveals a few surprises: a protein that forms a dimer, an extracellular domain with a novel helical fold, and a cytoplasmic segment with remarkable similarity to pseudokinases.
PMCID: PMC3694306  PMID: 23499020
21.  Correlation of Phenotypic Profiles Using Targeted Proteomics Identifies Mycobacterial Esx-1 Substrates 
Journal of Proteome Research  2014;13(11):5151-5164.
The Esx/WXG-100 (ESAT-6/Wss) exporters are multiprotein complexes that promote protein translocation across the cytoplasmic membrane in a diverse range of pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacterial species. The Esx-1 (ESAT-6 System-1) system mediates virulence factor translocation in mycobacterial pathogens, including the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Although several genes have been associated with Esx-1-mediated transport and virulence, the contribution of individual Esx-1 genes to export is largely undefined. A unique aspect of Esx-1 export is that several substrates require each other for export/stability. We exploited substrate “codependency” to identify Esx-1 substrates. We simultaneously quantified changes in the levels of 13 Esx-1 proteins from both secreted and cytosolic protein fractions generated from 16 Esx-1-deficient Mycobacterium marinum strains in a single experiment using MRM/SRM targeted mass spectrometry. This expansion of measurable Esx-1 proteins allowed us to define statistical rules for assigning novel substrates using phenotypic profiles of known Esx-1 substrates. Using this approach, we identified three additional Esx-1 substrates encoded by the esx-1 region. Our studies begin to address how disruption of specific genes affects several proteins in the Esx-1 complex. Overall, our findings illuminate relationships between Esx-1 proteins and create a framework for the identification of secreted substrates applicable to other protein exporters and pathways.
PMCID: PMC4227905  PMID: 25106450
targeted proteomics; secretion; Esx-1; Mycobacterium marinum; EsxA; RD1; MRM/SRM; substrate identification
22.  EsxA membrane-permeabilizing activity plays a key role in mycobacterial cytosolic translocation and virulence: effects of single-residue mutations at glutamine 5 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:32618.
EsxA is required for virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and plays an essential role in phagosome rupture and translocation to the cytosol of macrophages. Recent biochemical studies have demonstrated that EsxA is a membrane-permeabilizing protein. However, evidence that link EsxA membrane-permeabilizing activity to Mtb cytosolic translocation and virulence is lacking. Here we found that mutations at glutamine 5 (Q5) could up or down regulate EsxA membrane-permeabilizing activity. The mutation Q5K significantly diminished the membrane-permeabilizing activity, while Q5V enhanced the activity. By taking advantage of the single-residue mutations, we tested the effects of EsxA membrane-permeabilizing activity on mycobacterial virulence and cytosolic translocation using the esxA/esxB knockout strains of Mycobacterium marinum (Mm) and Mtb. Compared to wild type (WT), the Q5K mutant exhibited significantly attenuated virulence, evidenced by intracellular survival and cytotoxicity in mouse macrophages as well as infection of zebra fish embryos. The attenuated virulence of the Q5K mutant was correlated to the impaired cytosolic translocation. On the contrary, the Q5V mutant had a significantly increased cytosolic translocation and showed an overall increased virulence. This study provides convincing evidence that EsxA contributes to mycobacterial virulence with its membrane-permeabilizing activity that is required for cytosolic translocation.
PMCID: PMC5013644  PMID: 27600772
23.  EspD Is Critical for the Virulence-Mediating ESX-1 Secretion System in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(4):884-893.
ESAT-6 system 1 (ESX-1)-mediated secretion in Mycobacterium tuberculosis is dependent on proteins encoded by the cotranscribed espA-espC-espD gene cluster. While the roles of EspA and EspC with respect to the ESX-1 secretion system have been actively investigated, the function of EspD remains unknown. We show that EspD is secreted by M. tuberculosis, but unlike EspA and EsxA, its export does not exclusively require the ESX-1 system. Evidence for stabilization of cellular levels of EspA and EspC by EspD is presented, and depletion of EspD results in loss of EsxA secretion. Site-directed mutagenesis of EspD reveals that its role in the maintenance of cellular levels of EspA in M. tuberculosis is distinct from its facilitation of EsxA secretion. The same mutagenesis experiments have also shown that secretion of EspD is not required for the secretion of EsxA. Our findings highlight a critical and complex role for EspD in modulating the ESX-1 secretion system in M. tuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC3272943  PMID: 22155774
24.  Recombinant ESAT-6-Like Proteins Provoke Protective Immune Responses against Invasive Staphylococcus aureus Disease in a Murine Model 
Infection and Immunity  2014;83(1):339-345.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common pathogen found in the community and in hospitals. Most notably, methicillin-resistant S. aureus is resistant to many antibiotics, which is a growing public health concern. The emergence of drug-resistant strains has prompted the search for alternative treatments, such as immunotherapeutic approaches. To date, most clinical trials of vaccines or of passive immunization against S. aureus have ended in failure. In this study, we investigated two ESAT-6-like proteins secreted by S. aureus, S. aureus EsxA (SaEsxA) and SaEsxB, as possible targets for a vaccine. Mice vaccinated with these purified proteins elicited high titers of anti-SaEsxA and anti-SaEsxB antibodies, but these antibodies could not prevent S. aureus infection. On the other hand, recombinant SaEsxA (rSaEsxA) and rSaEsxB could induce Th1- and Th17-biased immune responses in mice. Mice immunized with rSaEsxA and rSaEsxB had significantly improved survival rates when challenged with S. aureus compared with the controls. These findings indicate that SaEsxA and SaEsxB are two promising Th1 and Th17 candidate antigens which could be developed into multivalent and serotype-independent vaccines against S. aureus infection.
PMCID: PMC4288882  PMID: 25368117
25.  The plasmid-mediated evolution of the mycobacterial ESX (Type VII) secretion systems 
The genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis contains five copies of the ESX gene cluster, each encoding a dedicated protein secretion system. These ESX secretion systems have been defined as a novel Type VII secretion machinery, responsible for the secretion of proteins across the characteristic outer mycomembrane of the mycobacteria. Some of these secretion systems are involved in virulence and survival in M. tuberculosis; however they are also present in other non-pathogenic mycobacteria, and have been identified in some non-mycobacterial actinomycetes. Three components of the ESX gene cluster have also been found clustered in some gram positive monoderm organisms and are predicted to have preceded the ESX gene cluster.
This study used in silico and phylogenetic analyses to describe the evolution of the ESX gene cluster from the WXG-FtsK cluster of monoderm bacteria to the five ESX clusters present in M. tuberculosis and other slow-growing mycobacteria. The ancestral gene cluster, ESX-4, was identified in several nonmycomembrane producing actinobacteria as well as the mycomembrane-containing Corynebacteriales in which the ESX cluster began to evolve and diversify. A novel ESX gene cluster, ESX-4EVOL, was identified in some non-mycobacterial actinomycetes and M. abscessus subsp. bolletii. ESX-4EVOL contains all of the conserved components of the ESX gene cluster and appears to be a precursor of the mycobacterial ESX duplications. Between two and seven ESX gene clusters were identified in each mycobacterial species, with ESX-2 and ESX-5 specifically associated with the slow growers. The order of ESX duplication in the mycobacteria is redefined as ESX-4, ESX-3, ESX-1 and then ESX-2 and ESX-5. Plasmid-encoded precursor ESX gene clusters were identified for each of the genomic ESX-3, -1, -2 and -5 gene clusters, suggesting a novel plasmid-mediated mechanism of ESX duplication and evolution.
The influence of the various ESX gene clusters on vital biological and virulence-related functions has clearly influenced the diversification and success of the various mycobacterial species, and their evolution from the non-pathogenic fast-growing saprophytic to the slow-growing pathogenic organisms.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12862-016-0631-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4791881  PMID: 26979252
ESX; ESAT-6; Evolution; Mycobacterium; Plasmid; Type VII secretion system

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