Gram-positive bacteria use type VII secretion systems (T7SSs) to export effector proteins that manipulate the physiology of nearby prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Several mycobacterial T7SSs have established roles in virulence. By contrast, recent work has demonstrated that the genetically distinct T7SSb pathway found in Firmicutes bacteria more often functions to mediate interbacterial competition. A lack of structural information on the T7SSb has limited the understanding of effector export by this protein secretion apparatus. In this work, we present the 2.4Å crystal structure of the extracellular region of the elusive T7SSb subunit EsaA from
Streptococcus gallolyticus. Our structure reveals that homodimeric EsaA is an elongated, arrow-shaped protein with a surface-accessible ‘tip’, which serves as a receptor for lytic bacteriophages in some species of bacteria. Because it is the only T7SSb subunit large enough to traverse the thick peptidoglycan layer of Firmicutes bacteria, we propose that EsaA plays a critical role in transporting effectors across the entirety of the Gram-positive cell envelope.