Health-promoting effects have been attributed to a number of Bifidobacterium sp. strains. These effects as well as the ability to colonise the host depend on secreted proteins. Moreover, rational design of protein secretion systems bears the potential for the generation of novel probiotic bifidobacteria with improved health-promoting or therapeutic properties. To date, there is only very limited data on secretion signals of bifidobacteria available. Using in silico analysis, we demonstrate that all bifidobacteria encode the major components of Sec-dependent secretion machineries but only B. longum strains harbour Tat protein translocation systems. A reporter plasmid for secretion signals in bifidobacteria was established by fusing the coding sequence of the signal peptide of a sialidase of Bifidobacterium bifidum S17 to the phytase gene appA of E. coli. The recombinant strain showed increased phytase activity in spent culture supernatants and reduced phytase levels in crude extracts compared to the control indicating efficient phytase secretion. The reporter plasmid was used to screen seven predicted signal peptides in B. bifidum S17 and B. longum E18. The tested signal peptides differed substantially in their efficacy to mediate protein secretion in different host strains. An efficient signal peptide was used for expression and secretion of a therapeutically relevant protein in B. bifidum S17. Expression of a secreted cytosine deaminase led to a 100-fold reduced sensitivity of B. bifidum S17 to 5-fluorocytosine compared to the non-secreted cytosine deaminase suggesting efficient conversion of 5-fluorocytosine to the cytotoxic cancer drug 5-fluorouracil by cytosine deaminase occurred outside the bacterial cell. Selection of appropriate signal peptides for defined protein secretion might improve therapeutic efficacy as well as probiotic properties of bifidobacteria.