Finlay Lab

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The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a contractile nanomachine widely distributed among pathogenic and commensal Gram-negative bacteria. The T6SS is used for inter-bacterial competition to directly kill competing species; however, its importance during bacterial infection in vivo remains poorly understood. We report that the murine pathogen Citrobacter rodentium, used as a model for human pathogenic Escherichia coli, harbors two functional T6SSs. C. rodentium employs its T6SS-1 to colonize the murine gastrointestinal tract by targeting commensal Enterobacteriaceae. We identify VgrG1 as a C. rodentium T6SS antibacterial effector, which exhibits toxicity in E. coli. Conversely, commensal prey species E. coli Mt1B1 employs two T6SSs of its own to counter C. rodentium colonization. Collectively, these data demonstrate that the T6SS is a potent weapon during bacterial competition and is used by both invading pathogens and resident microbiota to fight for a niche in the hostile gut environment.