Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 832–844 | Cite as

Pore-forming toxins

  • R.J.C. Gilbert


Pore-forming toxins are widely distributed proteins which form lesions in biological membranes. In this review, bacterial pore-forming toxins are treated as a paradigm and discussed in terms of the structural principles on which they work. Then, a large family of bacterial toxins, the cholesterol-binding toxins, are analyzed in depth to provide an overview of the processes involved in pore formation. The ways in which the cholesterol-binding toxins (cholesterol-dependent cytolysins) interact with membranes and form pores, the structure of the monomeric soluble and oligomeric pore-forming states, and the effects of the toxin on membrane structure are discussed. By surveying the range of work which has been done on cholesterol-binding toxins, a working model is elaborated which reconciles two current, apparently diametrically opposed, models for their mechanism.

Key words. Pore-forming toxin; cholesterol binding; membrane structure and dynamics; cryo-electron microscopy; pneumolysin; perfringolysin; streptolysin. 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • R.J.C. Gilbert
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Structural Biology, Henry Wellcome Building for Genomic Medicine, University of Oxford, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford OX3 7BN (United Kingdom), Fax + 44 1865 287 547, e-mail:¶Oxford Centre for Molecular Sciences, Central Chemistry Laboratory, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QU (United Kingdom)GB

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