Staphylococcal Pore-Forming Toxins

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Together with Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is the most frequently isolated bacteria in routine hospital testing. Like the two other pathogens, S. aureus may synthesize numerous virulence factors, develop multiple resistances to antibiotics, and be responsible for numerous no-socomial infections. Within the repertoire of toxins secreted by the bacteria, the pore-forming toxins constitute, similar to the superantigens, a large family of compounds with comparable, though distinct, functions, effects and structures. The lytic effect of these pore-forming toxins has been known for about 100 years (van der Velde 1894). Some of these toxins may be produced by almost all the strains, while others are produced only by a few. The latter group can be investigated for clinical association with diseases. Several related toxins may be genetically maintained and secreted by a single strain. Therefore, it is of interest to understand why these related toxins are conserved, what benefit they provide to the bacteria and what is their contribution to pathogenesis. The role and the mode of action of these toxins have been assessed in a variety of experimental models.