VacA toxin from the cancer-inducing bacterium Helicobacter pylori is currently classified as a pore-forming toxin but is also considered a multifunctional toxin, apparently causing many pleiotropic cell effects. However, an increasing body of evidence suggests that VacA could be the prototype of a new class of monofunctional A-B toxins in which the A subunit exhibits pore-forming instead of enzymatic activity. Thus, VacA may use a peculiar mechanism of action, allowing it to intoxicate the human stomach. By combining the action of a cell-binding domain, a specific intracellular trafficking pathway and a novel mitochondrion-targeting sequence, the VacA pore-forming domain is selectively delivered to the inner mitochondrial membrane to efficiently kill target epithelial cells by apoptosis.
- Emerging disease
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