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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 608456, 13 pages
Review Article

Role of Pore-Forming Toxins in Neonatal Sepsis

Center of Chronic Immunodeficiency, Medical Center, University of Freiburg, Breisacher Straße 117, 79106 Freiburg, Germany

Received 4 February 2013; Accepted 27 March 2013

Academic Editor: Robert Bortolussi

Copyright © 2013 Andreas F.-P. Sonnen and Philipp Henneke. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Protein toxins are important virulence factors contributing to neonatal sepsis. The major pathogens of neonatal sepsis, group B Streptococci, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus, secrete toxins of different molecular nature, which are key for defining the disease. Amongst these toxins are pore-forming exotoxins that are expressed as soluble monomers prior to engagement of the target cell membrane with subsequent formation of an aqueous membrane pore. Membrane pore formation is not only a means for immediate lysis of the targeted cell but also a general mechanism that contributes to penetration of epithelial barriers and evasion of the immune system, thus creating survival niches for the pathogens. Pore-forming toxins, however, can also contribute to the induction of inflammation and hence to the manifestation of sepsis. Clearly, pore-forming toxins are not the sole factors that drive sepsis progression, but they often act in concert with other bacterial effectors, especially in the initial stages of neonatal sepsis manifestation.