Role of protein phosphorylation on serine/threonine and tyrosine in the virulence of bacterial pathogens

J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2005;9(3-4):198-213. doi: 10.1159/000089648.


Bacterial pathogens have developed a diversity of strategies to interact with host cells, manipulate their behaviors, and thus to survive and propagate. During the process of pathogenesis, phosphorylation of proteins on hydroxyl amino acids (serine, threonine, tyrosine) occurs at different stages, including cell-cell interaction and adherence, translocation of bacterial effectors into host cells, and changes in host cellular structure and function induced by infection. The phosphorylation reactions are catalyzed in a reversible fashion by specific protein kinases and phosphatases that belong to either the invading bacterial cells or the infected eukaryotic host cells. Among the various virulence factors involved in bacterial pathogenesis, special attention has been paid recently to the cell wall components, exopolysaccharides. A major breakthrough has been made by showing the existence of a biological link between the activity of certain protein-tyrosine kinases/phosphatases and the production and/or transport of surface polysaccharides. In addition, genetic studies have revealed a key role played by some serine/threonine kinases in pathogenesis. Considering the structural organization and membrane topology of these different kinases, it can be envisaged that they operate as one-component systems in signal transduction pathways, in the form of single proteins containing input and output domains on the same polypeptide chain. From a general standpoint, the demonstration of a direct relationship between protein phosphorylation on serine/threonine/tyrosine and bacterial virulence represents a novel concept of great importance in deciphering the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Virulence Factors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases