species and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli
(STEC) are agents of bloody diarrhea that may progress to potentially lethal complications such as diarrhea-associated hemolytic uremic syndrome (D+HUS) and neurological disorders. The bacteria share the ability to produce virulence factors called Shiga toxins (Stxs). Research over the past two decades has identified Stxs as multifunctional toxins capable of inducing cell stress responses in addition to their canonical ribotoxic function inhibiting protein synthesis. Notably, Stxs are not only potent inducers of cell death, but also activate innate immune responses that may lead to inflammation, and these effects may increase the severity of organ injury in patients infected with Stx-producing bacteria. In the intestines, kidneys, and central nervous system, excessive or uncontrolled host innate and cellular immune responses triggered by Stxs may result in sensitization of cells to toxin mediated damage, leading to immunopathology and increased morbidity and mortality in animal models (including primates) and human patients. Here, we review studies describing Stx-induced innate immune responses that may be associated with tissue damage, inflammation, and complement activation. We speculate on how these processes may contribute to immunopathological responses to the toxins.
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