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Cell Microbiol. 2012 Jan;14(1):1-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2011.01684.x. Epub 2011 Sep 22.

Activation of cell stress response pathways by Shiga toxins.

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  • 1Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis, College of Medicine, Texas A&M Health Science Center, Bryan, TX 77807, USA.


Shiga toxin-producing bacteria cause widespread outbreaks of bloody diarrhoea that may progress to life-threatening systemic complications. Shiga toxins (Stxs), the main virulence factors expressed by the pathogens, are ribosome-inactivating proteins which inhibit protein synthesis by removing an adenine residue from 28S rRNA. Recently, Stxs were shown to activate multiple stress-associated signalling pathways in mammalian cells. The ribotoxic stress response is activated following the depurination reaction localized to the α-sarcin/ricin loop of eukaryotic ribosomes. The unfolded protein response (UPR) may be initiated by toxin unfolding within the endoplasmic reticulum, and maintained by production of truncated, misfolded proteins following intoxication. Activation of the ribotoxic stress response leads to signalling through MAPK cascades, which appears to be critical for activation of innate immunity and regulation of apoptosis. Precise mechanisms linking ribosomal damage with MAPK activation require clarification but may involve recognition of ribosomal conformational changes and binding of protein kinases to ribosomes, which activate MAP3Ks and MAP2Ks. Stxs appear capable of activating all ER membrane localized UPR sensors. Prolonged signalling through the UPR induces apoptosis in some cell types. The characterization of stress responses activated by Stxs may identify targets for the development of interventional therapies to block cell damage and disease progression.

© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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