Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 Shiga toxins inhibit gamma interferon-mediated cellular activation

Infect Immun. 2012 Jul;80(7):2307-15. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00255-12. Epub 2012 Apr 23.


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) serotype O157:H7 is a food-borne pathogen that causes significant morbidity and mortality in developing and industrialized nations. EHEC infection of host epithelial cells is capable of inhibiting the gamma interferon (IFN-γ) proinflammatory pathway through the inhibition of Stat-1 phosphorylation, which is important for host defense against microbial pathogens. The aim of this study was to determine the bacterial factors involved in the inhibition of Stat-1 tyrosine phosphorylation. Human HEp-2 and Caco-2 epithelial cells were challenged directly with either EHEC or bacterial culture supernatants and stimulated with IFN-γ, and then the protein extracts were analyzed by immunoblotting. The data showed that IFN-γ-mediated Stat-1 tyrosine phosphorylation was inhibited by EHEC secreted proteins. Using two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis, EHEC Shiga toxins were identified as candidate inhibitory factors. EHEC Shiga toxin mutants were then generated and complemented in trans, and mutant culture supernatant was supplemented with purified Stx to confirm their ability to subvert IFN-γ-mediated cell activation. We conclude that while other factors are likely involved in the suppression of IFN-γ-mediated Stat-1 tyrosine phosphorylation, E. coli-derived Shiga toxins represent a novel mechanism by which EHEC evades the host immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli O157 / immunology*
  • Escherichia coli O157 / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion*
  • Interferon-gamma / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proteome / analysis
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor / immunology*
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Shiga Toxins / immunology*
  • Shiga Toxins / toxicity*


  • Proteome
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor
  • STAT1 protein, human
  • Shiga Toxins
  • Interferon-gamma