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Apoptosis. 2003 Mar;8(2):179-90.

Potential role of the EPEC translocated intimin receptor (Tir) in host apoptotic events.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6058, USA.


Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a well-ordered process that allows damaged or diseased cells to be removed from an organism without severe inflammatory reactions. Multiple factors, including microbial infection, can induce programmed death and trigger reactions in both host and microbial cellular pathways. Whereas an ultimate outcome is host cell death, these apoptotic triggering mechanisms may also facilitate microbial spread and prolong infection. To gain a better understanding of the complex events of host cell response to microbial infection, we investigated the molecular role of the microorganism Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) in programmed cell death. We report that wild type strain of EPEC, E2348/69, induced apoptosis in cultured PtK2 and Caco-2 cells, and in contrast, infections by the intracellularly localized Listeria monocytogenes did not. Fractionation and concentration of EPEC-secreted proteins demonstrated that soluble protein factors expressed by the bacteria were capable of inducing the apoptotic events in the absence of organism attachment, suggesting adherence is not required to induce host cell death. Among the known EPEC proteins secreted via the Type III secretion (TTS) system, we identified the translocated intimin receptor (Tir) in the apoptosis-inducing protein sample. In addition, host cell ectopic expression of an EPEC GFP-Tir showed mitochondrial localization of the protein and produced apoptotic effects in transfected cells. Taken together, these results suggest a potential EPEC Tir-mediated role in the apoptotic signaling cascade of infected host cells.

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