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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Mar;43(6):1379-86.

Enhanced bacterial virulence through exploitation of host glycosaminoglycans.

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INSERM-IPL U-447, Institut Pasteur de Lille, France.


Present in the extracellular matrix and membranes of virtually all animal cells, proteoglycans (PGs) are among the first host macromolecules encountered by infectious agents. Because of their wide distribution and direct accessibility, it is not surprising that pathogenic bacteria have evolved mechanisms to exploit PGs for their own purposes, including mediating attachment to target cells. This is achieved through the expression of adhesins that recognize glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) linked to the core protein of PGs. Some pathogens, such as Bordetella pertussis and Chlamydia trachomatis, may express more than one GAG-binding adhesin. Bacterial interactions with PGs may also facilitate cell invasion or systemic dissemination, as observed for Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis respectively. More-over, pathogenic bacteria can use PGs to enhance their virulence via a shedding of PGs that leads to there lease of effectors that weaken the host defences. The exploitation of PGs by pathogenic bacteria is thus a multifaceted mechanistic process directly related to the potential virulence of a number of microorganisms.

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