The invasion of colonic epithelial cells by Shigella, an early essential step for causing bacillary dysentery, is mediated by the IpaB, IpaC and IpaD proteins. Secretion of the Ipa proteins from Shigella requires functions encoded by the mxi and spa loci. In this study, we show that contact between the bacteria and epithelial cell triggers release of the Ipa proteins into the external medium, which results in a rapid decrease in levels of Ipa proteins presented on the cell surface. When the bacteria were used to infect polarized Caco-2 cells, release of Ipa proteins occurred efficiently from bacteria interacting with the basolateral surface rather than with the apical surface. Moreover, the interaction of bacteria with components of the extracellular matrix, such as fibronectin, laminin or collagen type IV, also stimulates the release of Ipa proteins. The release of Ipa proteins from Shigella required the surface-located Spa32 protein encoded by one of the spa genes on the large plasmid.