Exotoxins play a central role in the pathologies caused by most major bacterial animal pathogens. The large variety of vertebrate and invertebrate hosts in the animal kingdom is reflected by a large variety of bacterial pathogens and toxins. The group of repeats in the structural toxin (RTX) toxins is particularly abundant among bacterial pathogens of animals. Many of these toxins are described as hemolysins due to their capacity to lyse erythrocytes in vitro. Hemolysis by RTX toxins is due to the formation of cation-selective pores in the cell membrane and serves as an important marker for virulence in bacterial diagnostics. However, their physiologic relevant targets are leukocytes expressing β2 integrins, which act as specific receptors for RTX toxins. For various RTX toxins, the binding to the CD18 moiety of β2
integrins has been shown to be host specific, reflecting the molecular basis of the host range of RTX toxins expressed by bacterial pathogens. Due to the key role of RTX toxins in the pathogenesis of many bacteria, antibodies directed against specific RTX toxins protect against disease, hence, making RTX toxins valuable targets in vaccine research and development. Due to their specificity, several structural genes encoding for RTX toxins have proven to be essential in modern diagnostic applications in veterinary medicine.
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