Anthrax infection inhibits the AKT signaling involved in the E-cadherin-mediated adhesion of lung epithelial cells

Taissia Popova*, Virginia Espina, Charles Bailey, Lance Liotta, Emanuel Petricoin, Serguei Popov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The effect of anthrax infection on phosphoprotein signaling was studied in human small airway lung epithelial cells exposed to B. anthracis spores of the plasmidless dSterne strain in comparison with the Sterne strain containing the toxigenic plasmid (pXO1). The differential regulation of phosphorylation was found in the mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade (ERK, p38, and P90RSK), the PI3K cascade (AKT, GSK-3α/β), and downstream in the case of the proapoptotic BAD and the transcription factor STAT3. Both strains stimulate phosphorylation of CREB and inhibit phosphorylation of 4E-BP1 required for activation of cap-dependent translation. Downregulation of the survival AKT phosphorylation by the Sterne strain inhibits the process of Ca 2+-dependent homophilic interaction of E-cadherin (EC) upon formation or repair of cell-cell contacts. Both lethal and edema toxins produced by the Sterne strain inhibit the AKT phosphorylation induced during the EC-mediated signaling. Activity of ERK1/2 and p38 inhibitors indicates that inhibition of AKT phosphorylation takes place through the ERK1/2-PI3K crosstalk. In Sterne spore-challenged mice, a specific inhibitor of PI3K/AKT, wortmannin, accelerates the lethal outcome, and reduction of AKT phosphorylation in the circulating blood cells coincides with the death of animals. We conclude that the PI3K/AKT pathway controlling the integrity of epithelium plays an important survival role in anthrax infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-142
Number of pages14
JournalFEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • AKT
  • Cell signaling
  • Cell-cell adherence
  • Epithelial cells
  • Reverse-phase microarray


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