Structural and Molecular Biology of Type IV Secretion Systems

  • Célia Bergé
  • Gabriel Waksman
  • Laurent TerradotEmail author
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 413)


Type IV secretion systems (T4SSs) are nanomachines that Gram-negative, Gram-positive bacteria, and some archaea use to transport macromolecules across their membranes into bacterial or eukaryotic host targets or into the extracellular milieu. They are the most versatile secretion systems, being able to deliver both proteins and nucleoprotein complexes into targeted cells. By mediating conjugation and/or competence, T4SSs play important roles in determining bacterial genome plasticity and diversity; they also play a pivotal role in the spread of antibiotic resistance within bacterial populations. T4SSs are also used by human pathogens such as Legionella pneumophila, Bordetella pertussis, Brucella sp., or Helicobacter pylori to sustain infection. Since they are essential virulence factors for these important pathogens, T4SSs might represent attractive targets for vaccines and therapeutics. The best-characterized conjugative T4SSs of Gram-negative bacteria are composed of twelve components that are conserved across many T4SSs. In this chapter, we will review our current structural knowledge on the T4SSs by describing the structures of the individual components and how they assemble into large macromolecular assemblies. With the combined efforts of X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and more recently electron microscopy, structural biology of the T4SS has made spectacular progress during the past fifteen years and has unraveled the properties of unique proteins and complexes that assemble dynamically in a highly sophisticated manner.


Bacterial secretion system Membrane transport Virulence factor Nanomachine Bacterial pilus X-ray crystallography Electron microscopy 



LT and CB are supported by the program ANR-13-ISV3-0006-Sintesys and Research program Grant from Agence Recherche contre le Cancer (ARC) foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Célia Bergé
    • 1
  • Gabriel Waksman
    • 2
  • Laurent Terradot
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.UMR 5086 Molecular Microbiology and Structural Biochemistry CNRS-Université de Lyon 1Institut de Biologie et Chimie des ProtéinesLyon Cedex 07France
  2. 2.Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, Birkbeck College, University College LondonLondonUK

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