The effects of pathogenic organisms on host intestinal epithelial cells are vast. Innumerable signalling pathways are triggered leading ultimately to drastic changes in physiological functions. Here, the ways in which enteric bacterial pathogens utilise and impact on the three major physiological functions of the intestinal epithelium are discussed: alterations in the structure and function of the tight junction barrier, induction of fluid and electrolyte secretion, and activation of the inflammatory cascade. This field of investigation, which was virtually non-existent a decade ago, has now exploded, thus rapidly expanding our understanding of bacterial pathogenesis. Through increased delineation of the ways in which microbes alter host physiology, we simultaneous gain insight into the normal regulatory mechanisms of the intestinal epithelium.
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