Journal article

Pathogens, toxins and lipid rafts

The plasma membrane is not a uniform two-dimensional space but includes various types of specialized regions containing specific lipids and proteins. These include clathrin-coated pits and caveolae. The existence of other cholesterol- and glycosphingolipid-rich microdomains has also been proposed. The aim of this review is to illustrate that these latter domains, also called lipid rafts, may be the preferential interaction sites between a variety of toxins, bacteria, and viruses and the target cell. These pathogens and toxins have hijacked components that are preferentially found in rafts, such as glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins, sphingomyelin, and cholesterol. These molecules not only allow binding of the pathogen or toxin to the proper target cell but also appear to potentiate the toxic action. We briefly review the structure and proposed functions of cholesterol- and glycosphingolipid-rich microdomains and then describe the toxins and pathogens that interact with them. When possible the advantage conferred by the interaction with microdomains will be discussed.


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