Regulation of Shiga Toxin Production

  • Christopher J. Silva
  • David L. Brandon
  • Craig B. Skinner
  • Xiaohua He
Part of the Food Microbiology and Food Safety book series (FMFS)


Although Shiga toxins are produced by particular E. coli serotypes, the genes transcribed, as well as the timing and quantity of transcription, are determined by lambdoid phages (phages related to phage λ) that infect those serotypes. A lambdoid phage is referred to as temperate when it integrates into a host cell genome and replicates its DNA “lysogenically” (as the cell replicates its DNA). A stressed cell detects DNA damage and figuratively sends out an “SOS.” The phages have a sophisticated mechanism that detects the host cell SOS response to DNA damage and responds by replicating “lytically” (with lysis of the host cell). Each “Stx-phage” has one Shiga toxin operon, composed of genes encoding the Shiga toxin StxA and StxB subunits. However, an individual Stx-phage may integrate into a bacterial chromosome more than once, and different species of Stx-phage can infect a bacterium simultaneously. Both the multiplicity of infection and recombination events permit a single host to produce more than one type or variant of Shiga toxin, each produced under the control of its own phage. Additional transposable elements (transposons) from the bacterial host add to this genetic diversity, and all levels of this diversity are transmissible to other bacterial hosts. To combat phages, bacterial hosts have a primitive adaptive immune system that employs clustered, regularly-interspaced, short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and the CRISPR-associated genes (CAS). CRISPR/CAS can inactivate infecting Stx-phages.


Lytic replication Shiga toxin-producing bacteriophages SOS response Transposons Integrons CRISPER/CAS Lambdoid phages Phage lambda Superinfection Pathogenicity islands 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Silva
    • 1
  • David L. Brandon
    • 1
  • Craig B. Skinner
    • 1
  • Xiaohua He
    • 1
  1. 1.United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research ServiceWestern Regional Research CenterAlbanyUSA

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