Recent evidence shows that mycobacteria have developed novel and specialized secretion systems for the transport of extracellular proteins across their hydrophobic, and highly impermeable, cell wall. Strikingly, mycobacterial genomes encode up to five of these transport systems. Two of these systems, ESX-1 and ESX-5, are involved in virulence - they both affect the cell-to-cell migration of pathogenic mycobacteria. Here, we discuss this novel secretion pathway and consider variants that are present in various Gram-positive bacteria. Given the unique composition of this secretion system, and its general importance, we propose that, in line with the accepted nomenclature, it should be called type VII secretion.
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