EspH is a hypervirulence factor for Mycobacterium marinum and essential for the secretion of the ESX-1 substrates EspE and EspF

Trang H. Phan, Lisanne M. van Leeuwen, Coen Kuijl, Roy Ummels, Gunny van Stempvoort, Alba Rubio-Canalejas, Sander R. Piersma, Connie R. Jiménez, Astrid M. van der Sar, Edith N.G. Houben, Wilbert Bitter

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28 Citations (Scopus)


The pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis employs a range of ESX-1 substrates to manipulate the host and build a successful infection. Although the importance of ESX-1 secretion in virulence is well established, the characterization of its individual components and the role of individual substrates is far from complete. Here, we describe the functional characterization of the Mycobacterium marinum accessory ESX-1 proteins EccA1, EspG1and EspH, i.e. proteins that are neither substrates nor structural components. Proteomic analysis revealed that EspG1is crucial for ESX-1 secretion, since all detectable ESX-1 substrates were absent from the cell surface and culture supernatant in an espG1mutant. Deletion of eccA1resulted in minor secretion defects, but interestingly, the severity of these secretion defects was dependent on the culture conditions. Finally, espH deletion showed a partial secretion defect; whereas several ESX-1 substrates were secreted in normal amounts, secretion of EsxA and EsxB was diminished and secretion of EspE and EspF was fully blocked. Interaction studies showed that EspH binds EspE and therefore could function as a specific chaperone for this substrate. Despite the observed differences in secretion, hemolytic activity was lost in all M. marinum mutants, implying that hemolytic activity is not strictly correlated with EsxA secretion. Surprisingly, while EspH is essential for successful infection of phagocytic host cells, deletion of espH resulted in a significantly increased virulence phenotype in zebrafish larvae, linked to poor granuloma formation and extracellular outgrowth. Together, these data show that different sets of ESX-1 substrates play different roles at various steps of the infection cycle of M. marinum.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1007247
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2018

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