Chapter 26 : Molecular Biology and Role in Disease of the Verotoxins (Shiga-Like Toxins) of Escherichia coli

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This chapter discusses the current understanding of the of family verotoxins, with an emphasis on recent advances in structural analysis, and in the understanding of receptor binding and the role of the toxins in pathogenesis. Shiga toxin and VTe are encoded on chromosomal genes and do not appear to be associated with phages. The genes are organized as bicistronic operons. Investigators have recently found that the phenylalanine at position 30 plays a critical role in receptor binding. Purified Phe-30-Ala mutant B subunit has a 30-fold lower affinity than the wild type for Gb3. Mutant holotoxin has 100,000-fold lower cytotoxic activity on Vero cell monolayers. The mutant B subunit has been crystallized, and difference maps comparing it with the wild-type B subunit of VT1 show that the structures are identical with the exception of the substituted side chain. VT-producing strains produce HC in cattle, although the most virulent strain for humans (O157:H7) is carried asymptomatically by cattle. The vehicles for transmission to humans are undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, apple cider, and contaminated lake and potable water. Fully developed hemmorrhagic colitis (HC) is characterized by intense abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Edema disease occurs in weanling pigs as a result of intestinal infection with strains of which produce VTe, usually of serotypes O138, O139, and O141. Epidemiological and pathological evidence strongly implicates VTs in the pathogenesis of HC and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Citation: Brunton J. 1994. Molecular Biology and Role in Disease of the Verotoxins (Shiga-Like Toxins) of Escherichia coli, p 391-404. In Miller V, Kaper J, Portnoy D, Isberg R (ed), Molecular Genetics of Bacterial Pathogenesis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818340.ch26
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Table 1

SLT and VT nomenclatures and biological properties

The most common serotypes producing SLT or VT associated with human disease are O157:H7, O157:H-, O26: H11, O111 :H, and H8. Other important serotypes have been O91 :H, O113:H21, O103:H2, O128:H?, and O145: H. For a more complete list see Karmali ( ).

VT2 related toxins are not neutralized by antiserum raised against Shiga toxin or VT1.

SLT-IIc has been called SLT-IIvha or SLT-IIvhb in the past. VT2c was often called VT2 in the past. M. Karmali's strain E32511 is cured of an SLTII-specifying bacteriophage.

SLT-IIe was called SLT-IIv and SLT-IIvp. VT2e has been called VT2v and VTe.

Citation: Brunton J. 1994. Molecular Biology and Role in Disease of the Verotoxins (Shiga-Like Toxins) of Escherichia coli, p 391-404. In Miller V, Kaper J, Portnoy D, Isberg R (ed), Molecular Genetics of Bacterial Pathogenesis. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818340.ch26

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