To ensure a functional immune system, the mammalian host must detect and respond to the presence of pathogenic bacteria during infection. This is accomplished in part by generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) that target invading bacteria; a process that is facilitated by NADPH oxidase upregulation. Thus, bacterial pathogens must overcome the oxidative burst produced by the host innate immune cells in order to survive and proliferate. In this way, pathogenic bacteria develop virulence, which is related to the affinity to secrete effector proteins against host ROS in order to facilitate microbial survival in the host cell. These effectors scavenge the host generated ROS directly, or alternatively, manipulate host cell signaling mechanisms designed to benefit pathogen survival. The redox-balance of the host is important for the regulation of cell signaling activities that include mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), p21-activated kinase (PAK), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt, and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) pathways. An understanding of the function of pathogenic effectors to divert host cell signaling is important to ascertain the mechanisms underlying pathogen virulence and the eventual host–pathogen relationship. Herein, we examine the effectors produced by the microbial secretion system, placing emphasis on how they target molecular signaling mechanisms involved in a host immune response. Moreover, we discuss the potential impact of bioactive polyphenols in modulating these molecular interactions that will ultimately influence pathogen virulence.
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