Gut feelings: enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) interactions with the host

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2000;16:173-89. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.16.1.173.


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is a gram-negative bacterial pathogen that adheres to human intestinal epithelial cells, resulting in watery, persistent diarrhea. It subverts the host cell cytoskeleton, causing a rearrangement of cytoskeletal components into a characteristic pedestal structure underneath adherent bacteria. In contrast to other intracellular pathogens that affect the actin cytoskeleton from inside the host cytoplasm, EPEC remains extracellular and transmits signals through the host cell plasma membrane via direct injection of virulence factors by a "molecular syringe," the bacterial type III secretion system. One injected factor is Tir, which functions as the plasma membrane receptor for EPEC adherence. Tir directly links extracellular EPEC through the epithelial membrane and firmly anchors it to the host cell actin cytoskeleton, thereby initiating pedestal formation. In addition to stimulating actin nucleation and polymerization in the host cell, EPEC activates several other signaling pathways that lead to tight junction disruption, inhibition of phagocytosis, altered ion secretion, and immune responses. This review summarizes recent developments in our understanding of EPEC pathogenesis and discusses similarities and differences between EPEC pedestals, focal contacts, and Listeria monocytogenes actin tails.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diarrhea / immunology
  • Diarrhea / metabolism
  • Diarrhea / microbiology*
  • Diarrhea / physiopathology
  • Escherichia coli / immunology
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Humans