Substrate recognition of type III secretion machines--testing the RNA signal hypothesis.
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Secretion by the type III pathway of Gram-negative microbes transports polypeptides into the extracellular medium or into the cytoplasm of host cells during infection. In pathogenic Yersinia spp., type III machines recognize 14 different Yop protein substrates via discrete signals genetically encoded in 7-15 codons at the 5' portion of yop genes. Although the signals necessary and sufficient for substrate recognition of Yop proteins have been mapped, a clear mechanism on how proteins are recognized by the machinery and then initiated into the transport pathway has not yet emerged. As synonymous substitutions, mutations that alter mRNA sequence but not codon specificity, affect the function of some secretion signals, recent work with several different microbes tested the hypothesis of an RNA-encoded secretion signal for polypeptides that travel the type III pathway. This review summarizes experimental observations and mechanistic models for substrate recognition in this field.