A New Front in Microbial Warfare—Delivery of Antifungal Effectors by the Type VI Secretion System

Katharina Trunk, Sarah Coulthurst (Lead / Corresponding author), Janet Quinn (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
164 Downloads (Pure)


Microbes typically exist in mixed communities and display complex synergistic and antagonistic interactions. The Type VI secretion system (T6SS) is widespread in Gram-negative bacteria and represents a contractile nano-machine that can fire effector proteins directly into neighbouring cells. The primary role assigned to the T6SS is to function as a potent weapon during inter-bacterial competition, delivering antibacterial effectors into rival bacterial cells. However, it has recently emerged that the T6SS can also be used as a powerful weapon against fungal competitors, and the first fungal-specific T6SS effector proteins, Tfe1 and Tfe2, have been identified. These effectors act via distinct mechanisms against a variety of fungal species to cause cell death. Tfe1 intoxication triggers plasma membrane depolarisation, whilst Tfe2 disrupts nutrient uptake and induces autophagy. Based on the frequent coexistence of bacteria and fungi in microbial communities, we propose that T6SS-dependent antifungal activity is likely to be widespread and elicited by a suite of antifungal effectors. Supporting this hypothesis, homologues of Tfe1 and Tfe2 are found in other bacterial species, and a number of T6SS-elaborating species have been demonstrated to interact with fungi. Thus, we envisage that antifungal T6SS will shape many polymicrobial communities, including the human microbiota and disease-causing infections.
Original languageEnglish
Article number50
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Fungi
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Antifungal effectors
  • Polymicrobial interactions
  • Type vi secretion system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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