Secretins of Pseudomonas aeruginosa: large holes in the outer membrane.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces a large number of exoproteins, ranging from the ADP-ribosyltransferases exotoxin A and ExoS to degradative enzymes, such as elastase and chitinase. As it is a gram-negative bacterium, P. aeruginosa must be able to transport these exoproteins across both membranes of the cell envelope. In addition, also proteins that are part of cellular appendages, such as type IV pili and flagella, have to cross the cell envelope. Whereas the majority of the proteins transported across the inner membrane are dependent on the Sec channel, the systems for translocation across the outer membrane seem to be more diverse. Gram-negative bacteria have invented a number of different strategies during the course of evolution to achieve this goal. Although these transport machineries seem to be radically different, many of them actually depend on a member of the secretin protein family for their function. Recent results show that secretins form a large complex in the outer membrane, which constitutes the actual translocation channel. Understanding the working mechanism of this protein translocation channel could open up new strategies to target molecular machineries at the heart of many important virulence factors.