Bacterial infection often leads to cellular damage, primarily marked by loss of cellular integrity and cell death. However, in recent years, it is being increasingly recognized that, in individual cells, there are graded responses collectively termed cell-autonomous defense mechanisms that induce cellular processes designed to limit cell damage, enable repair, and eliminate bacteria. Many of these responses are triggered not by detection of a particular bacterial effector or ligand but rather by their effects on key cellular processes and changes in homeostasis induced by microbial effectors when recognized. These in turn lead to a decrease in essential cellular functions such as protein translation or mitochondrial respiration and the induction of innate immune responses that may be specific to the cellular deficit induced. These processes are often associated with specific cell compartments, e.g., the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Under non-infection conditions, these systems are generally involved in sensing cellular stress and in inducing and orchestrating the subsequent cellular response. Thus, perturbations of ER homeostasis result in accumulation of unfolded proteins which are detected by ER stress sensors in order to restore the normal condition. The ER is also important during bacterial infection, and bacterial effectors that activate the ER stress sensors have been discovered. Increasing evidence now indicate that bacteria have evolved strategies to differentially activate different arms of ER stress sensors resulting in specific host cell response. In this review, we will describe the mechanisms used by bacteria to activate the ER stress sensors and discuss their role during infection.
Keywords: Bacterial effectors; Bacterial infection; Endoplasmic reticulum stress.