A subset of intracellular pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes, Shigella flexneri, Rickettsia spp., and Burkholderia spp. disseminate within nonphagocytic cells, such as epithelial and endothelial cells, through a process referred to as cell-to-cell spread . These pathogens utilize the host cell actin cytoskeleton to move in the cytosol of infected cells and project into adjacent cells through formation of membrane protrusions. The formed protrusions resolve into vacuoles from which the pathogen escapes, thereby gaining access to the cytosol of adjacent cells (Fig 1). Here, we present the general principles and summarize the underlying mechanisms supporting this bacterial dissemination process.
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