Systematic genetic nomenclature for type VII secretion systems

Bitter, Wilbert ; Houben, Edith N. G. ; Bottai, Darria ; Brodin, Priscille ; Brown, Eric J. ; Cox, Jeffery S. ; Derbyshire, Keith ; Fortune, Sarah M. ; Gao, Lian-Yong ; Liu, Jun ; Van Pittius, Nicolaas C. Gey ; Pym, Alexander S. ; Rubin, Eric J. ; Sherman, David R. ; Cole, Stewart T. ; Brosch, Roland (2009)

CITATION: Bitter, W., et al. 2009. Systematic genetic nomenclature for type VII secretion systems. PLoS Pathogens, 5(10): 1-6, doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000507.

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Mycobacteria, such as the etiological agent of human tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, are protected by an impermeable cell envelope composed of an inner cytoplasmic membrane, a peptidoglycan layer, an arabinogalactan layer, and an outer membrane. This second membrane consists of covalently linked, tightly packed long-chain mycolic acids [1,2] and noncovalently bound shorter lipids involved in pathogenicity [3–5]. To ensure protein transport across this complex cell envelope, mycobacteria use various secretion pathways, such as the SecA1-mediated general secretory pathway [6,7], an alternative SecA2-operated pathway [8], a twin-arginine translocation system [9,10], and a specialized secretion pathway variously named ESAT-6-, SNM-, ESX-, or type VII secretion [11–16]. The latter pathway, hereafter referred to as type VII secretion (T7S), has recently become a large and competitive research topic that is closely linked to studies of host–pathogen interactions of M. tuberculosis [17] and other pathogenic mycobacteria [16]. Molecular details are just beginning to be revealed [18–22] showing that T7S systems are complex machineries with multiple components and multiple substrates. Despite their biological importance, there has been a lack of a clear naming policy for the components and substrates of these systems. As there are multiple paralogous T7S systems within the Mycobacteria and orthologous systems in related bacteria, we are concerned that, without a unified nomenclature system, a multitude of redundant and obscure gene names will be used that will inevitably lead to confusion and hinder future progress. In this opinion piece we will therefore propose and introduce a systematic nomenclature with guidelines for name selection of new components that will greatly facilitate communication and understanding in this rapidly developing field of research.

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