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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2001 Dec;25(5):531-52.

Bacterial plasminogen activators and receptors.

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Division of General Microbiology, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 56, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Invasive bacterial pathogens intervene at various stages and by various mechanisms with the mammalian plasminogen/plasmin system. A vast number of pathogens express plasmin(ogen) receptors that immobilize plasmin(ogen) on the bacterial surface, an event that enhances activation of plasminogen by mammalian plasminogen activators. Bacteria also influence secretion of plasminogen activators and their inhibitors from mammalian cells. The prokaryotic plasminogen activators streptokinase and staphylokinase form a complex with plasmin(ogen) and thus enhance plasminogen activation. The Pla surface protease of Yersinia pestis resembles mammalian activators in function and converts plasminogen to plasmin by limited proteolysis. In essence, plasminogen receptors and activators turn bacteria into proteolytic organisms using a host-derived system. In Gram-negative bacteria, the filamentous surface appendages fimbriae and flagella form a major group of plasminogen receptors. In Gram-positive bacteria, surface-bound enzyme molecules as well as M-protein-related structures have been identified as plasminogen receptors, the former receptor type also occurs on mammalian cells. Plasmin is a broad-spectrum serine protease that degrades fibrin and noncollagenous proteins of extracellular matrices and activates latent procollagenases. Consequently, plasmin generated on or activated by Haemophilus influenzae, Salmonella typhimurium, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Y. pestis, and Borrelia burgdorferi has been shown to degrade mammalian extracellular matrices. In a few instances plasminogen activation has been shown to enhance bacterial metastasis in vitro through reconstituted basement membrane or epithelial cell monolayers. In vivo evidence for a role of plasminogen activation in pathogenesis is limited to Y. pestis, Borrelia, and group A streptococci. Bacterial proteases may also directly activate latent procollagenases or inactivate protease inhibitors of human plasma, and thus contribute to tissue damage and bacterial spread across tissue barriers.

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