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      ESX secretion system: The gatekeepers of mycobacterial survivability and pathogenesis

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          Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of Tuberculosis has plagued humankind for ages and has surfaced stronger than ever with the advent of drug resistance. Mycobacteria are adept at evading the host immune system and establishing infection by engaging host factors and secreting several virulence factors. Hence these secretion systems play a key role in mycobacterial pathogenesis. The type VII secretion system or ESX (early secretory antigenic target (ESAT6) secretion) system is one such crucial system that comprises five different pathways having distinct roles in mycobacterial proliferation, pathogenesis, cytosolic escape within macrophages, regulation of macrophage apoptosis, metal ion homeostasis, etc. ESX 1–5 systems are implicated in the secretion of a plethora of proteins, of which only a few are functionally characterized. Here we summarize the current knowledge of ESX secretion systems of mycobacteria with a special focus on ESX-1 and ESX-5 systems that subvert macrophage defenses and help mycobacteria to establish their niche within the macrophage.

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          Most cited references 74

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          Molecular basis of bacterial outer membrane permeability revisited.

          Gram-negative bacteria characteristically are surrounded by an additional membrane layer, the outer membrane. Although outer membrane components often play important roles in the interaction of symbiotic or pathogenic bacteria with their host organisms, the major role of this membrane must usually be to serve as a permeability barrier to prevent the entry of noxious compounds and at the same time to allow the influx of nutrient molecules. This review summarizes the development in the field since our previous review (H. Nikaido and M. Vaara, Microbiol. Rev. 49:1-32, 1985) was published. With the discovery of protein channels, structural knowledge enables us to understand in molecular detail how porins, specific channels, TonB-linked receptors, and other proteins function. We are now beginning to see how the export of large proteins occurs across the outer membrane. With our knowledge of the lipopolysaccharide-phospholipid asymmetric bilayer of the outer membrane, we are finally beginning to understand how this bilayer can retard the entry of lipophilic compounds, owing to our increasing knowledge about the chemistry of lipopolysaccharide from diverse organisms and the way in which lipopolysaccharide structure is modified by environmental conditions.
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            The ESCRT machinery in endosomal sorting of ubiquitylated membrane proteins.

            Selective trafficking of membrane proteins to lysosomes for destruction is required for proper cell signalling and metabolism. Ubiquitylation aids this process by specifying which proteins should be transported to the lysosome lumen by the multivesicular endosome pathway. The endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) machinery sorts cargo labelled with ubiquitin into invaginations of endosome membranes. Then, through a highly conserved mechanism also used in cytokinesis and viral budding, it mediates the breaking off of the cargo-containing intraluminal vesicles from the perimeter membrane. The involvement of the ESCRT machinery in suppressing diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration and infections underscores its importance to the cell.
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              Type VII secretion--mycobacteria show the way.

              Recent evidence shows that mycobacteria have developed novel and specialized secretion systems for the transport of extracellular proteins across their hydrophobic, and highly impermeable, cell wall. Strikingly, mycobacterial genomes encode up to five of these transport systems. Two of these systems, ESX-1 and ESX-5, are involved in virulence - they both affect the cell-to-cell migration of pathogenic mycobacteria. Here, we discuss this novel secretion pathway and consider variants that are present in various Gram-positive bacteria. Given the unique composition of this secretion system, and its general importance, we propose that, in line with the accepted nomenclature, it should be called type VII secretion.

                Author and article information

                Eur J Microbiol Immunol (Bp)
                Eur J Microbiol Immunol (Bp)
                European Journal of Microbiology & Immunology
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                10 November 2020
                31 December 2020
                : 10
                : 4
                : 202-209
                Department of Biotechnology, Molecular Immunology and Cellular Microbiology Laboratory, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur , Kharagpur 721302, India
                Author notes
                *Corresponding author. E-mail: somdeb@
                © 2020, The Author(s)

                Open Access. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited, a link to the CC License is provided, and changes - if any – are indicated.

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                Figures: 2, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 74, Pages: 8
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