The medically significant, obligate intracellular pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis replicates within vacuoles termed inclusions. A developmental cycle is initiated after entry into a host cell and is manifested by the transformation of infectious elementary bodies (EBs) to larger, non-infectious reticulate bodies (RBs). Analysis of the C. trachomatis genome has revealed that chlamydiae possess genes that may encode a type III secretion apparatus. In other Gram-negative pathogens, the type III secretion mechanism is used to target virulence factors directly to the host cell cytoplasm and is essential for full virulence. To evaluate the possibility of a functional type III secretion mechanism in C. trachomatis, we initially focused on a locus containing genes encoding products with similarity to chaperones (Scc1), secretion pore components (Cds1 and Cds2) and secreted proteins (CopN) from other type III systems. Gene expression was tested by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of total RNA extracted from infected HeLa cell monolayers at 2, 6, 12 and 20 h after infection and normalized for the number of C. trachomatis genomes present. Message was detected for Scc1 at all times, whereas message for all other tested genes was detected in significant amounts at 12 h and 20 h. Immunoblot analysis with Scc1- and CopN-specific antibodies revealed that CopN and Scc1 were present in EBs, RBs and whole-culture extracts harvested 20 h after infection. CopN is homologous to the secreted protein YopN of Yersinia sp., and analysis of monolayers 20 h after infection via indirect immunofluorescence showed specific labelling of inclusion membranes when probed with CopN-specific antibodies but not with Scc1-specific antibodies. His-tagged CopN and a chlamydial cytoplasmic control protein (NrdB) were expressed in Yersinia enterocolitica containing or lacking the virulence plasmid pYV. CopN, but not NrdB, was secreted by Y. enterocolitica in a Ca2+- and pYV-dependent fashion. These data indicate that components of the putative type III apparatus of C. trachomatis are expressed and that at least one of these products is secreted by chlamydiae to the inclusion membrane. The observation that CopN is also secreted by the Yersinia type III apparatus provides support for the notion that chlamydiae secrete proteins via a type III mechanism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology