Shiga and Shiga-Like Toxins: A Family of Related Cytotoxins
Shiga toxin is a potent cytotoxin produced by Shigella dysenteviae 1 that is also enterotoxic for ligated rabbit ileum and paralytic and lethal for mice and rabbits (1). Shiga toxin was first described in 1903 by Conradi (2), and it is the prototype toxin for a family of related toxins called Shiga-like toxins (SLT’s) or verotoxins. The members of the SLT family include cytotoxins produced by other Shigella species (3,4), Escherichia coli (5,6) two species of Vibrio (7) , as well as some strains of Salmonella typhimuriun (5,8), and Campylobactev jejuni (M. Moore, M. Blaser, G. Perez-Perez, and A. O’Brien, in preparation). The levels of cytotoxic activity produced by these organisms as measured by the number of 50% cytotoxic doses (CD50) per ml cell lysate (9) vary from low ( < 6 × 102) to moderate (1 × 103 to 1 × 104) to high (1 × 105) to 1 × 108). Production of moderate or high levels of SLT’s by E. coli is commonly associated with strains of E. coli that cause hemorrhagic colitis or the hemolytic uremic syndrome (9,10). The significance (if any) of low-level SLT production remains to be determined. The purpose of this report is to summarize our current understanding of the epidemiology, potential role in pathogenesis, structure, function and molecular genetics of the various members of the SLT family. Particular emphasis will be placed on Shiga toxin and the SLT’s produced at moderate to high levels by E. coli.
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