New insights into the functions of anthrax toxin

Expert Rev Mol Med. 2006 Apr 11;8(7):1-18. doi: 10.1017/S1462399406010714.


Anthrax is the disease caused by the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Two toxins secreted by B. anthracis - lethal toxin (LT) and oedema toxin (OT) - contribute significantly to virulence. Although these toxins have been studied for half a century, recent evidence indicates that LT and OT have several roles during infection not previously ascribed to them. Research on toxin-induced effects other than cytolysis of target cells has revealed that LT and OT influence cell types previously thought to be insensitive to toxin. Multiple host factors that confer sensitivity to anthrax toxin have been identified recently, and evidence indicates that the toxins probably contribute to colonisation and invasion of the host. Additionally, the toxins are now known to cause a wide spectrum of tissue and organ pathophysiologies associated with anthrax. Taken together, these new findings indicate that anthrax-toxin-associated pathogenesis is much more complex than has been traditionally recognised.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthrax / immunology*
  • Anthrax / therapy
  • Antigens, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Antigens, Bacterial / toxicity*
  • Bacillus anthracis / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Toxins / toxicity*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Cytokines
  • anthrax toxin