Large-scale identification and translocation of type IV secretion substrates by Coxiella burnetii. Academic Article uri icon


  • Coxiella burnetii is an obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen responsible for acute and chronic Q fever. This bacterium harbors a type IV secretion system (T4SS) highly similar to the Dot/Icm of Legionella pneumophila that is believed to be essential for its infectivity. Protein substrates of the Coxiella T4SS are predicted to facilitate the biogenesis of a phagosome permissive for its intracellular growth. However, due to the lack of genetic systems, protein transfer by the C. burnetii Dot/Icm has not been demonstrated. In this study, we report the identification of 32 substrates of the C. burnetii Dot/Icm system using a fluorescence-based -lactamase (TEM1) translocation assay as well as the calmodulin-dependent adenylate cyclase (CyaA) assay in the surrogate host L. pneumophila. Notably, 26 identified T4SS substrates are hypothetical proteins without predicted function. Candidate secretion substrates were obtained by using (i) a genetic screen to identify C. burnetii proteins interacting with DotF, a component of the T4SS, and (ii) bioinformatic approaches to retrieve candidate genes that harbor characteristics associated with previously reported substrates of the Dot/Icm system from both C. burnetii and L. pneumophila. Moreover, we have developed a shuttle plasmid that allows the expression of recombinant proteins in C. burnetii as TEM fusion products. Using this system, we demonstrated that a Dot/Icm substrate identified with L. pneumophila was also translocated by C. burnetii in a process that requires its C terminus, providing direct genetic evidence of a functional T4SS in C. burnetii.

published proceedings

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

author list (cited authors)

  • Chen, C., Banga, S., Mertens, K., Weber, M. M., Gorbaslieva, I., Tan, Y., Luo, Z., & Samuel, J. E.

citation count

  • 152

complete list of authors

  • Chen, Chen||Banga, Simran||Mertens, Katja||Weber, Mary M||Gorbaslieva, Ivana||Tan, Yunhao||Luo, Zhao-Qing||Samuel, James E

publication date

  • December 2010