How E. coli Bacteria Launch Infections

GEN | August 21, 2019

Most types of Escherichia coli are harmless, but the ones that arent can cause severe life threatening diarrhea. These problematic bacteria launch infections by inducing intestinal cells to form tiny structures pedestals that anchor the pathogens in place and help the colonies grow. Now, researchers report in mBio Pathogenic Escherichia coli Hijacks GTPase-Activated p21-Activated Kinase for Actin Pedestal Formation that they have discovered an Achilles heel for disabling pedestal formation. Lab experiments on enteropathogenic and enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EPEC and EHEC) showed that when the pathogens were prevented from injecting a protein called EspG into intestinal hosts, the hosts were slower and less effective in producing pedestals that fixed the bacteria in place. Further investigations revealed the cellular pathways hijacked by EspG. “Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli and enterohemorrhagic E. coli are extracellular pathogens that reorganize the host cell cytoskeleton to form ‘actin pedestals’ beneath the tightly adherent bacteria, a critical step in pathogenesis. EPEC and EHEC inject effector proteins that manipulate host cell signaling cascades to trigger pedestal assembly. One such effector, EspG, has been reported to bind and activate p21-activated kinase (PAK), a key cytoskeletal regulator, but the function of this interaction and whether it impacts pedestal assembly are unknown,” the investigators wrote.

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