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Bartonella T4SS effector BepC was reported to mediate internalization of big Bartonella aggregates into host cells by modulating F-actin polymerization. After that, BepC was indicated to induce host cell fragmentation, an interesting cell phenotype that is characterized by failure of rear-end retraction during cell migration, and subsequent dragging and fragmentation of cells. Here, we found that expression of BepC resulted in significant stress fiber formation and contractile cell morphology, which depended on combination of the N-terminus FIC (filamentation induced by c-AMP) domain and C-terminus BID (Bartonella intracellular delivery) domain of BepC. The FIC domain played a key role in BepC-induced stress fiber formation and cell fragmentation because deletion of FIC signature motif or mutation of two conserved amino acid residues abolished BepC-induced cell fragmentation. Immunoprecipitation confirmed the interaction of BepC with GEF-H1 (a microtubule-associated RhoA guanosine exchange factor), and siRNA-mediated depletion of GEF-H1 prevented BepC-induced stress fiber formation. Interaction with BepC caused the dissociation of GEF-H1 from microtubules and activation of RhoA to induce formation of stress fibers. The ROCK (Rho-associated protein kinase) inhibitor Y27632 completely blocked BepC effects on stress fiber formation and cell contractility. Moreover, stress fiber formation by BepC increased the stability of focal adhesions, which consequently impeded rear-edge detachment. Overall, our study revealed that BepC-induced stress fiber formation was achieved through the GEF-H1/RhoA/ROCK pathway.


Chunyan Wang, Haoran Zhang, Jiaqi Fu, Meng Wang, Yuhao Cai, Tianyun Ding, Jiezhang Jiang, Jane E Koehler, Xiaoyun Liu, Congli Yuan. Bartonella type IV secretion effector BepC induces stress fiber formation through activation of GEF-H1. PLoS pathogens. 2021 Jan;17(1):e1009065

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PMID: 33508039

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