Enzymatic Specificity of Conserved Rho GTPase Deamidases Promotes Invasion of Vibrio parahaemolyticus at the Expense of Infection

Alexander E. Lafrance, Suneeta Chimalapati, Nalleli Garcia Rodriguez, Lisa N. Kinch, Karan Gautam Kaval, Kim Orth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vibrio parahaemolyticus is among the leading causes of bacterial seafood-borne acute gastroenteritis. Like many intracellular pathogens, V. parahaemolyticus invades host cells during infection by deamidating host small Rho GTPases. The Rho GTPase deamidating activity of VopC, a type 3 secretion system (T3SS) translocated effector, drives V. parahaemolyticus invasion. The intracellular pathogen uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) invades host cells by secreting a VopC homolog, the secreted toxin cytotoxic necrotizing factor 1 (CNF1). Because of the homology between VopC and CNF1, we hypothesized that topical application of CNF1 during V. parahaemolyticus infection could supplement VopC activity. Here, we demonstrate that CNF1 improves the efficiency of V. parahaemolyticus invasion, a bottleneck in V. parahaemolyticus infection, across a range of doses. CNF1 increases V. parahaemolyticus invasion independent of both VopC and the T3SS altogether but leaves a disproportionate fraction of intracellular bacteria unable to escape the endosome and complete their infection cycle. This phenomenon holds true in the presence or absence of VopC but is particularly pronounced in the absence of a T3SS. The native VopC, by contrast, promotes a far less efficient invasion but permits the majority of internalized bacteria to escape the endosome and complete their infection cycle. These studies highlight the significance of enzymatic specificity during infection, as virulence factors (VopC and CNF1 in this instance) with similarities in function (bacterial uptake), catalytic activity (deamidation), and substrates (Rho GTPases) are not sufficiently interchangeable for mediating a successful invasion for neighboring bacterial pathogens. IMPORTANCE Many species of intracellular bacterial pathogens target host small Rho GTPases to initiate invasion, including the human pathogens Vibrio parahaemolyticus and uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC). The type three secretion system (T3SS) effector VopC of V. parahaemolyticus promotes invasion through the deamidation of Rac1 and CDC42 in the host, whereas the secreted toxin cytotoxic necrotizing factor 1 (CNF1) drives UPEC’s internalization through the deamidation of Rac1, CDC42, and RhoA. Despite these similarities in the catalytic activity of CNF1 and VopC, we observed that the two enzymes were not interchangeable. Although CNF1 increased V. parahaemolyticus endosomal invasion, most intracellular V. parahaemolyticus aborted their infection cycle and remained trapped in endosomes. Our findings illuminate how the precise biochemical fine-tuning of T3SS effectors is essential for efficacious pathogenesis. Moreover, they pave the way for future investigations into the biochemical mechanisms underpinning V. parahaemolyticus endosomal escape and, more broadly, the regulation of successful pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Deamidase
  • T3SS
  • Vibrio parahaemolyticus
  • VopC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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