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Trends Biochem Sci. 2003 Dec;28(12):639-45.

The intracellular voyage of cholera toxin: going retro.

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GI Cell Biology, Children's Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Cholera toxin (CT) and related AB(5)-subunit toxins move from the plasma membrane through the trans-Golgi and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the cytosol of host cells. The toxins exploit a specific glycolipid pathway rather than a protein pathway. They bind glycolipids that associate with lipid rafts at the cell surface, which carry the toxins retrograde to the Golgi and ER. In the ER, the A1-chain of the CT unfolds and enters the cytosol by hijacking the cellular machinery that enables misfolded proteins to cross the membrane for degradation by the proteasome, a process termed retro-translocation. Upon entering the cytosol, the A1-chain rapidly refolds, avoids the proteasome and induces toxicity.

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