Target cell contact triggers expression and polarized transfer of Yersinia YopE cytotoxin into mammalian cells

EMBO J. 1994 Feb 15;13(4):964-72.


Pathogenic bacteria of the species Yersinia, including Yersinia pestis, block phagocytosis by macrophages. This process involves the YopE protein, which induces disruption of the host cell actin microfilament structure. Here, we show that the contact between the pathogen and the mammalian cell induces expression and then polarized transfer of YopE into the eukaryotic cell. While the bacteria remain at the surface of the target cell, the YopE cytotoxin is transferred through the host cell plasma membrane and YopE is only recovered within the cytosol of the target cell. The results suggest that the pathogen senses cell structures and focuses the transfer of YopE to occur solely at the interaction zone between the bacterium and the eukaryotic cell. The regulation of this process is shown to involve surface-located YopN sensor protein of the bacterium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Toxins / genetics
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cytotoxins / genetics
  • Cytotoxins / metabolism*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Virulence / genetics
  • Yersinia / metabolism*
  • Yersinia / pathogenicity


  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Cytotoxins
  • YopD protein, Yersinia
  • yopE protein, Yersinia