Eukaryotic cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) are used by various cells and extracellular molecules in host defence against infection. They are involved in many processes including recognition by circulating phagocytes of a site of inflammation, transmigration through the endothelial barrier, diapedesis through basement membrane and extracellular matrix, and release of effector mechanisms at the infected site. CAMs involved in leucocyte-endothelial cell interaction include the selectins, integrins, and members of the immunoglobulin superfamily. However, CAMs are also used by various microorganisms (protozoa, fungi, bacteria, and viruses) during their pathogenesis. For example, bacteria that utilise CAMs include Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia spp, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, Shigella spp, Neisseria spp, Bordetella spp, and Borrelia burgdorferi. In addition, CAMs are involved in the pathogenetic effects of the RTX toxins of Pasteurella haemolytica, Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, and the superantigen exotoxins of Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. A recurrent and topical theme of potential importance within the bacterial group is the intimate relation between CAMs, bacterial protein receptors, and type III secretion systems. For example, the IpaBCD protein complex is secreted by the type III system of Shigella flexneri and interacts with alpha 5 beta 1 integrin on the eukaryotic cell surface, followed by Rho mediated internalisation; this illustrates the relevance of cellular microbiology. CAMs might prove to be novel therapeutic targets. Comparative genomics has provided the knowledge of shared virulence determinants among diverse bacterial genera, and will continue to deepen our understanding of microbial pathogenesis, particularly in the context of the interaction of prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecules.
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