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Cell Microbiol. 2006 Sep;8(9):1516-27.

Directed delivery of heat-labile enterotoxin by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli.

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Research Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Memphis, TN, USA.


Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), leading causes of diarrhoeal morbidity and mortality in developing countries, are heterogenous pathogens that elaborate heat-labile (LT) and/or heat-stable (ST) enterotoxins which elicit watery, cholera-like diarrhoea. The molecular events permitting efficient delivery of LT remain undefined. Here, we characterize the role of host-pathogen interaction as it relates to the delivery of LT by ETEC. Separation of bacteria from target intestinal epithelial monolayers by semipermeable filters prevented activation of adenylate cyclase suggesting that pathogen-host cell contact is required for efficient toxin delivery. Likewise, a non-motile strain bearing a mutation in the flagellar fliD gene was deficient in delivery of LT relative to the ETEC (H10407) prototype. Although LT secretion via the type II secretion system (T2SS) was responsive to a variety of environmental factors, neither toxin release nor delivery depended on transcriptional activation of genes encoding LT or the T2SS. Fusions of green fluorescent protein to GspM (a component of the T2SS system for LT) and to LT demonstrated that both T2SS and toxin are distributed at one pole of the ETEC bacterium. Optimal LT delivery may occur in a polarized fashion with transfer of preformed toxin upon close interaction with host cells, preventing neutralization of LT.

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