Macropinocytosis in Shiga toxin 1 uptake by human intestinal epithelial cells and transcellular transcytosis

Irina Malyukova, Karen F. Murray, Chengru Zhu, Edgar Boedeker, Anne Kane, Kathleen Patterson, Jeffrey R. Peterson, Mark Donowitz, Olga Kovbasnjuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Shiga toxin 1 and 2 production is a cardinal virulence trait of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli infection that causes a spectrum of intestinal and systemic pathology. However, intestinal sites of enterohemorrhagic E. coli colonization during the human infection and how the Shiga toxins are taken up and cross the globotriaosylceramide (Gb3) receptor-negative intestinal epithelial cells remain largely uncharacterized. We used samples of human intestinal tissue from patients with E. coli O157:H7 infection to detect the intestinal sites of bacterial colonization and characterize the distribution of Shiga toxins. We further used a model of largely Gb3-negative T84 intestinal epithelial monolayers treated with B- subunit of Shiga toxin 1 to determine the mechanisms of non- receptor-mediated toxin uptake. We now report that E. coli O157:H7 were found at the apical surface of epithelial cells only in the ileocecal valve area and that both toxins were present in large amounts inside surface and crypt epithelial cells in all tested intestinal samples. Our in vitro data suggest that macropinocytosis mediated through Src activation significantly increases toxin endocytosis by intestinal epithelial cells and also stimulates toxin transcellular transcytosis. We conclude that Shiga toxin is taken up by human intestinal epithelial cells during E. coli O157:H7 infection regardless of the presence of bacterial colonies. Macropinocytosis might be responsible for toxin uptake by Gb3-free intestinal epithelial cells and transcytosis. These observations provide new insights into the understanding of Shiga toxin contribution to enterohemorrhagic E. coli-related intestinal and systemic diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G78-G92
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • O157:H7 colonization
  • Toxin endocytosis
  • Transport across the monolayer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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