Shiga toxins are virulence factors produced by the bacteria Shigella dysenteriae and certain strains of Escherichia coli. There is currently no available treatment for disease caused by these toxin-producing bacteria, and understanding the biology of the Shiga toxins might be instrumental in addressing this issue. In target cells, the toxins efficiently inhibit protein synthesis by inactivating ribosomes, and they may induce signaling leading to apoptosis. To reach their cytoplasmic target, Shiga toxins are endocytosed and transported by a retrograde pathway to the endoplasmic reticulum, before the enzymatically active moiety is translocated to the cytosol. The toxins thereby serve as powerful tools to investigate mechanisms of intracellular transport. Although Shiga toxins are a serious threat to human health, the toxins may be exploited for medical purposes such as cancer therapy or imaging.
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