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Adhesion and host cell modulation: critical pathogenicity determinants of Bartonella henselae

Bettina Franz and Volkhard AJ Kempf*

Author Affiliations

University hospital of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Institute for Medical Microbiology and Infection Control, Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse 40, Frankfurt am Main, D-60596, Germany

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Parasites & Vectors 2011, 4:54  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-4-54

Published: 13 April 2011


Bartonella henselae, the agent of cat scratch disease and the vasculoproliferative disorders bacillary angiomatosis and peliosis hepatis, contains to date two groups of described pathogenicity factors: adhesins and type IV secretion systems. Bartonella adhesin A (BadA), the Trw system and possibly filamentous hemagglutinin act as promiscous or specific adhesins, whereas the virulence locus (Vir)B/VirD4 type IV secretion system modulates a variety of host cell functions. BadA mediates bacterial adherence to endothelial cells and extracellular matrix proteins and triggers the induction of angiogenic gene programming. The VirB/VirD4 type IV secretion system is responsible for, e.g., inhibition of host cell apoptosis, bacterial persistence in erythrocytes, and endothelial sprouting. The Trw-conjugation system of Bartonella spp. mediates host-specific adherence to erythrocytes. Filamentous hemagglutinins represent additional potential pathogenicity factors which are not yet characterized. The exact molecular functions of these pathogenicity factors and their contribution to an orchestral interplay need to be analyzed to understand B. henselae pathogenicity in detail.