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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
The type III secretion system (T3SS) is an interspecies protein transport machine that plays a major role in interactions of Gram-negative bacteria with animals and plants by delivering bacterial effector proteins into host cells. T3SSs span both membranes of Gram-negative bacteria by forming a structure of connected oligomeric rings termed the needle complex (NC). Here, the localization of subunits in the Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium T3SS NC were probed via mass spectrometry-assisted identification of chemical cross-links in intact NC preparations. Cross-links between amino acids near the amino terminus of the outer membrane ring component InvG and the carboxyl terminus of the inner membrane ring component PrgH and between the two inner membrane components PrgH and PrgK allowed for spatial localization of the three ring components within the electron density map structures of NCs. Mutational and biochemical analysis demonstrated that the amino terminus of InvG and the carboxyl terminus of PrgH play a critical role in the assembly and function of the T3SS apparatus. Analysis of an InvG mutant indicates that the structure of the InvG oligomer can affect the switching of the T3SS substrate to translocon and effector components. This study provides insights into how structural organization of needle complex base components promotes T3SS assembly and function.