The ecological impact of a bacterial weapon: microbial interactions and the Type VI secretion system

Ramses Gallegos-Monterrosa, Sarah J. Coulthurst (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
87 Downloads (Pure)


Bacteria inhabit all known ecological niches and establish interactions with organisms from all kingdoms of life. These interactions are mediated by a wide variety of mechanisms and very often involve the secretion of diverse molecules from the bacterial cells. The Type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a bacterial protein secretion system that uses a bacteriophage-like machinery to secrete a diverse array of effectors, usually translocating them directly into neighbouring cells. These effectors display toxic activity in the recipient cell, making the T6SS an effective weapon during inter-bacterial competition and interactions with eukaryotic cells. Over the last two decades, microbiology research has experienced a shift towards using systems-based approaches to study the interactions between diverse organisms and their communities in an ecological context. Here, we focus on this aspect of the T6SS. We consider how our perspective of the T6SS has developed and examine what is currently known about the impact that bacteria deploying the T6SS can have in diverse environments, including niches associated with plants, insects and mammals. We consider how T6SS-mediated interactions can affect host organisms by shaping their microbiota, as well as the diverse interactions that can be established between different microorganisms through the deployment of this versatile secretion system.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfuab033
Number of pages18
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number6
Early online date22 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Type VI secretion system (T6SS)
  • host-pathogen interactions
  • inter-bacterial competition
  • microbial interactions
  • microbiota
  • sociomicrobiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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