Pore-forming toxins

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2002 May;59(5):832-44. doi: 10.1007/s00018-002-8471-1.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Toxins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Porins / chemistry
  • Porins / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Toxins, Biological / chemistry
  • Toxins, Biological / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Porins
  • Toxins, Biological
  • Cholesterol