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J Infect Dis. 1994 Mar;169(3):538-46.

Pathogenesis of Shigella diarrhea: XVII. A mammalian cell membrane glycolipid, Gb3, is required but not sufficient to confer sensitivity to Shiga toxin.

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  • 1Division of Geographic Medicine, New England Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02111.


Shiga toxin recognizes a galactose-alpha 1-->4-galactose terminal glycolipid, globotriaosylceramide (Gb3), in sensitive mammalian cells and is translocated by endocytosis to the cytoplasm, where it blocks protein synthesis. To determine if Gb3 is both required and sufficient for toxicity, Gb3 content in cells was altered by blocking key biosynthetic or degradative path enzymes with specific inhibitors. The resulting decrease or increase in cellular Gb3 was associated with a decrease or increase in binding of and response to Shiga toxin. Toxin-resistant Gb3-deficient variants of sensitive cells fused with liposomes containing Gb3 but not globotetraosylceramide (Gb4) became susceptible, whereas fusion of Gb3 liposomes to naturally resistant Gb3-deficient CHO cells increased toxin binding but not cytotoxicity. These data demonstrate that Gb3 is required, but not sufficient, for the action of Shiga toxin and suggest the existence of a toxin translocation mechanism linked to surface glycolipids that is not expressed in CHO cells.

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