- The virulence of many Gram-negative pathogens is associated with type III secretion systems (T3SSs), which deliver virulence effector proteins into the cytoplasm of host cells. Components of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) T3SS are encoded within the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). While most LEE-encoded T3SS proteins in EPEC have assigned names and functions, a few of them remain poorly characterized. Here, we studied a small LEE-encoded protein, Orf15, that shows no homology to other T3SS/flagellar proteins and is only present in attaching and effacing pathogens, including enterohemorrhagic E. coli and Citrobacter rodentium. Our findings demonstrated that it is essential for type III secretion (T3S) and that it is localized to the periplasm and associated with the inner membrane. Membrane association was driven by the N-terminal 19 amino acid residues, which were also shown to be essential for T3S. Consistent with its localization, Orf15 was found to interact with the EPEC T3SS outer membrane ring component, EscC, which was previously shown to be embedded within the outer membrane and protruding into the periplasmic space. Interestingly, we found that the predicted coiled-coil structure of Orf15 is critical for the protein's function. Overall, our findings suggest that Orf15 is a structural protein that contributes to the structural integrity of the T3S complex, and therefore we propose to rename it EscA.