The cellular entry of the bacterial Shiga toxin and the related verotoxins has been scrutinized in quite some detail. This is due to their importance as a threat to human health. At the same time, the study of Shiga toxin has allowed the discovery of novel molecular mechanisms that also apply to the intracellular trafficking of endogenous proteins at the plasma membrane and in the endosomal system. In this review, the individual steps that lead to Shiga toxin uptake into cells will first be presented from a purely mechanistic perspective. Membrane-biological concepts will be highlighted that are often still poorly explored, such as fluctuation force-driven clustering, clathrin-independent membrane curvature generation, friction-driven scission, and retrograde sorting on early endosomes. It will then be explored whether and how these also apply to other pathogens, pathogenic factors, and cellular proteins. The molecular nature of Shiga toxin as a carbohydrate-binding protein and that of its cellular receptor as a glycosylated raft lipid will be an underlying theme in this discussion. It will thereby be illustrated how the study of Shiga toxin has led to the proposal of the GlycoLipid-Lectin (GL-Lect) hypothesis on the generation of endocytic pits in processes of clathrin-independent endocytosis.
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