Author(s): Guichard A, Nizet V, Bier E
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Abstract The anthrax toxins lethal toxin (LT) and edema toxin (ET) are essential virulence factors produced by Bacillus anthracis. These toxins act during two distinct phases of anthrax infection. During the first, prodromal phase, which is often asymptomatic, anthrax toxins act on cells of the immune system to help the pathogen establish infection. Then, during the rapidly progressing (or fulminant) stage of the disease bacteria disseminate via a hematological route to various target tissues and organs, which are typically highly vascularized. As bacteria proliferate in the bloodstream, LT and ET begin to accumulate rapidly reaching a critical threshold level that will cause death even when the bacterial proliferation is curtailed by antibiotics. During this final phase of infection the toxins cause an increase in vascular permeability and a decrease in function of target organs including the heart, spleen, kidney, adrenal gland, and brain. In this review, we examine the various biological effects of anthrax toxins, focusing on the fulminant stage of the disease and on mechanisms by which the two toxins may collaborate to cause cardiovascular collapse. We discuss normal mechanisms involved in maintaining vascular integrity and based on recent studies indicating that LT and ET cooperatively inhibit membrane trafficking to cell-cell junctions we explore several potential mechanisms by which the toxins may achieve their lethal effects. We also summarize the effects of other potential virulence factors secreted by B. anthracis and consider the role of toxic factors in the evolutionarily recent emergence of this devastating disease. Copyright © 2011 Institut Pasteur. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Microbes Infect
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense