Molecular bases of epithelial cell invasion by Shigella flexneri

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The pathogenesis of shigellosis is characterized by the capacity of the causative microorganism, Shigella, to invade the epithelial cells that compose the mucosal surface of the colon in humans. The invasive process encompasses several steps which can be summarized as follows: entry of bacteria into epithelial cells involves signalling pathways that elicit a macropinocitic event. Upon contact with the cell surface, S. flexneri activates a Mxi/Spa secretory apparatus encoded by two operons comprising about 25 genes located on a large virulence plasmid of 220 kb. Through this specialized secretory apparatus, Ipa invasins are secreted, two of which (IpaB, 62 kDa and IpaC, 42 kDa) form a complex which is itself able to activate entry via its interaction with the host cell membrane. Interaction of this molecular complex with the cell surface elicits major rearrangements of the host cell cytoskeleton, essentially the polymerization of actin filaments that form bundles supporting the membrane projections which achieve bacterial entry. Active recruitment of the protooncogene pp 60c-src has been demonstrated at the entry site with consequent phosphorylation of cortactin. Also, the small GTPase Rho is controlling the cascade of signals that allows elongation of actin filaments from initial nucleation foci underneath the cell membrane. The regulatory signals involved as well as the proteins recruited indicate that Shigella induces the formation of an adherence plaque at the cell surface in order to achieve entry. Once intracellular, the bacterium lyses its phagocytic vacuole, escapes into the cytoplasm and starts moving the inducing polar, directed polymerization of actin on its surface, due to the expression of IcsA, a 120 kDa outer membrane protein, which is localized at one pole of the microorganism, following cleavage by SopA, a plasmid-encoded surface protease. In the context of polarized epithelial cells, bacteria then reach the intermediate junction and engage their components, particularly the cadherins, to form a protrusion which is actively internalized by the adjacent cell. Bacteria then lyse the two membranes, reach the cytoplasmic compartment again, and resume actin- driven movement.

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