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Molecular Biology of Escherichia Coli Shiga Toxins' Effects on Mammalian Cells

Shiga toxins (Stxs), syn. Vero(cyto)toxins, are potent bacterial exotoxins and the principal virulence factor of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), a subset of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). EHEC strains, e.g., strains of serovars O157:H7 and O104:H4, may cause individual cases as well as large outbreaks of life-threatening diseases in humans. Stxs primarily exert a ribotoxic activity in the eukaryotic target cells of the mammalian host resulting in rapid protein synthesis inhibition and cell death. Damage of endothelial cells in the kidneys and the central nervous system by Stxs is central in the pathogenesis of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in humans and edema disease in pigs. Probably even more important, the toxins also are capable of modulating a plethora of essential cellular functions, which eventually disturb intercellular communication. The review aims at providing a comprehensive overview of the current knowledge of the time course and the consecutive steps of Stx/cell interactions at the molecular level. Intervention measures deduced from an in-depth understanding of this molecular interplay may foster our basic understanding of cellular biology and microbial pathogenesis and pave the way to the creation of host-directed active compounds to mitigate the pathological conditions of STEC infections in the mammalian body.



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