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Nat Rev Immunol. 2013 Mar;13(3):199-206. doi: 10.1038/nri3398. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Effector-triggered versus pattern-triggered immunity: how animals sense pathogens.

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  • 1Developmental Immunology/CCIB, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


A fundamental question regarding any immune system is how it can discriminate between pathogens and non-pathogens. Here, we discuss how this discrimination can be mediated by a surveillance system distinct from pattern-recognition receptors that recognize conserved microbial patterns. It can be based instead on the ability of the host to sense perturbations in host cells induced by bacterial toxins or 'effectors' that are encoded by pathogenic microorganisms. Such 'effector-triggered immunity' was previously demonstrated mainly in plants, but recent data confirm that animals can also use this strategy.

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