Microbial invasion: A covert activity?

G. L. Gorby, E. N. Robinson, L. R. Barley, C. M. Clemens, Z. A. McGee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In contrast to nonpathogenetic microorganisms that exist happily in biofilms on various organic and inorganic surfaces, many pathogenic microbes have the additional ability to invade host tissues by inducing their own endocytosis and transport across normally protective barriers. This phenomenon, designated 'parasite-directed endocytosis', has been observed with a variety of surfaces (intestinal, genital, nasopharyngeal, and tracheal epithelium) as well as in endothelial cells. The mechanisms involved in invasion may involve a single factor as described for some species of Yersinia, or may require multiple factors as observed in Shigellae. For the majority of pathogens, the molecular mechanisms of invasion are not well understood (e.g., Neisseria gonorrhoeae). Because parasite-directed endocytosis is reminiscent of receptor-mediated endocytosis, it is quite possible that some pathogens engage in biologic mimicry by producing a molecule that resembles a natural host ligand, for which there is a host cell receptor. Such a masquerade may allow some microbes to enter the host's inner sanctum covertly in a manner analogous to the Trojan horse, rather than overtly by destroying the mucosa and entering host tissues directly. Whereas this hypothesis is speculative at present, bacteria that produce molecules resembling insulin, calmodulin, and chorionic gonadotropin have been described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-512
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Journal of Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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