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Future Microbiol. 2011 Jul;6(7):763-97. doi: 10.2217/fmb.11.58.

Multifaceted interactions of bacterial toxins with the gastrointestinal mucosa.

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Institut Pasteur, Unité des Bactéries anaérobies et Toxines, 25 rue du Dr Roux, 757245 Paris cedex 15, France.


The digestive tract is one of the ecosystems that harbors the largest number and greatest variety of bacteria. Among them, certain bacteria have developed various strategies, including the synthesis of virulence factors such as toxins, to interact with the intestinal mucosa, and are responsible for various pathologies. A large variety of bacterial toxins of different sizes, structures and modes of action are able to interact with the gastrointestinal mucosa. Some toxins, termed enterotoxins, directly stimulate fluid secretion in enterocytes or cause their death, whereas other toxins pass through the intestinal barrier and disseminate by the general circulation to remote organs or tissues, where they are active. After recognition of a membrane receptor on target cells, toxins can act at the cell membrane by transducing a signal across the membrane in a hormone-like manner, by pore formation or by damaging membrane compounds. Other toxins can enter the cells and modify an intracellular target leading to a disregulation of certain physiological processes or disorganization of some structural architectures and cell death. Toxins are fascinating molecules, which mimic or interfere with eukaryotic physiological processes. Thereby, they have permitted the identification and characterization of new natural hormones or regulatory pathways. Besides use as protective antigens in vaccines, toxins offer multiple possibilities in pharmacology, such as immune modulation or specific delivery of a protein of interest into target cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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