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Scientists have identified several dozen proteins that a type of bacteria — Pseudomonas syringae, which causes the plant disease bacterial canker — injects into its host cells.

Their findings — published in this week’s issue of Science — provide new insights into the mechanisms and functions of these proteins and of the type III secretion system, which enables bacteria to inject proteins directly into host cells, and is responsible for some of the most devastating plant and animal diseases.

David S. Guttman from the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues used a combination of genetic screening and bioinformatic predictions to identify the proteins.

They predicted 38 ‘effector’ proteins from the plant pathogen, including 15 new proteins. The variation among the proteins suggest that pathogens use multiple molecular strategies to adapt to different hosts, the authors say.

Reference: Science 295, 1722 (2002)