Signaling During Pathogen Infection

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Science's STKE  16 May 2006:
Vol. 2006, Issue 335, pp. re5
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3352006re5

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Pathogens infect almost every living organism. In animals, including humans, the diversity of pathogens ranges from viruses, bacteria, and unicellular parasites to complex fungi, worms, and arthropods. Because pathogens have coevolved with their hosts and have sometimes been coopted as symbionts or commensals, each pathogen/host pair represents a striking success story of survival that reflects the biological complexity of both parties. All invading microorganisms face similar problems, such as gaining access to their host, achieving successful replication, and spreading to a similar or different host. It is therefore not surprising that many different pathogens target similar organs, cell types, and even molecules to achieve their goals. However, no two microbial parasites appear to be completely alike. Although they often target similar signaling networks, they do so in subtly different ways to achieve the desired outcome. This review has eight figures, three movies, and 139 citations and emphasizes two well-established signaling pathways that are often activated during the interaction of different pathogens with their host cells. It illustrates a small part of how the dissection of host/pathogen interactions can reveal, on a molecular scale, a nature shaped by evolutionary forces that can rival the great descriptions of our macroscopic world.