Bacteroides fragilis type VI secretion systems use novel effector and immunity proteins to antagonize human gut Bacteroidales species

Maria Chatzidaki-Livanis, Naama Geva-Zatorsky, Laurie E. Comstock, Lora V. Hooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Type VI secretion systems (T6SSs) are multiprotein complexes best studied in Gram-negative pathogens where they have been shown to inhibit or kill prokaryotic or eukaryotic cells and are often important for virulence. We recently showed that T6SS loci are also widespread in symbiotic human gut bacteria of the order Bacteroidales, and that these T6SS loci segregate into three distinct genetic architectures (GA). GA1 and GA2 loci are present on conserved integrative conjugative elements (ICE) and are transferred and shared among diverse human gut Bacteroidales species. GA3 loci are not contained on conserved ICE and are confined to Bacteroides fragilis. Unlike GA1 and GA2 T6SS loci, most GA3 loci do not encode identifiable effector and immunity proteins. Here, we studied GA3 T6SSs and show that they antagonize most human gut Bacteroidales strains analyzed, except for B. fragilis strains with the same T6SS locus. A combination of mutation analyses, trans-protection analyses, and in vitro competition assays, allowed us to identify novel effector and immunity proteins of GA3 loci. These proteins are not orthologous to known proteins, do not contain identified motifs, and most have numerous predicted transmembrane domains. Because the genes encoding effector and immunity proteins are contained in two variable regions of GA3 loci, GA3 T6SSs of the species B. fragilis are likely the source of numerous novel effector and immunity proteins. Importantly, we show that the GA3 T6SS of strain 638R is functional in the mammalian gut and provides a competitive advantage to this organism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3627-3632
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 29 2016


  • Bacterial competition
  • Bacteroides
  • Gut microbiota
  • T6SS
  • Type VI secretion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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