Preface to Third Edition

An increasingly rapid expansion of our knowledge of the multifaceted aspects of bacterial protein toxins since the end of the 20th century necessitated the publication of this third edition of The Comprehensive Sourcebook of Bacterial Protein Toxins.

Among the most important achievement and discovery of the past six years was the explosion of new information in many domains of toxinology, illustrated by the discovery of more than 50 novel toxins (many of them identified through genome screening), extensive bacterial genome mapping, the determination of the nucleotide sequence of encoding genes and corresponding amino acid sequences, genetic regulation of toxin expression, genomic pathogenicity islands, identification of many toxin receptors at the surface of eucaryotic cells, toxin-induced modulation of various components, and effectors of intracellular signal transduction pathways and apoptotic events. Establishment of the three-dimensional crystal structure of more than 20 toxins during the same period allowed deeper knowledge of structure-activity relationships and provided a framework for understanding how toxins recognize receptors, penetrate membranes, and interact with and modify intracellular substrates. Moreover, the study of the structure of newly identified toxins demonstrated that toxins, which modify the cellular signaling pathways, possess the same active sites (functional mimicry) as those of corresponding cell proteins but with a different folding conformation. These new findings allow a better understanding of the mechanism of action of bacterial toxins at the subcellular level. In addition, bacterial toxins are extremely specific and exquisite tools to unravel physiological cell processes.

Recent progress also contributed to a better definition of major issues, namely toxin transcytosis and trafficking in eucaryotic target cells, mechanisms of action at the cellular and molecular levels, genetic and molecular mechanisms of toxin involvement in the virulence and pathogenicity of the relevant bacteria in many human diseases (cholera, anthrax, whooping cough, tetanus, botulism, diptheria, clostridial gas gangrenes, severe diseases caused by superantigenic toxins, Helicobacter pylori-associated peptic ulcers and carcinomas, food poisons, etc.). In this respect, the targeting of immune system cells by various toxins led to a better evaluation of both their beneficial effects (for example as immunomodulators in the case of cholera toxin B subunit) and pathophysiolgical effects in certain diseases in connection with the immune system. Finally, the past years witnessed considerable progress on toxin applications in vaccinology, tumor therapy, and new approaches in the treatment of various diseases. Whether some wild-type toxins can be directly used as therapeutic agents, protein engineering permits us to model more specific and efficient molecules or molecules with a novel activity, or to target a restricted subset of cell population. Novel recombinant toxins are already proposed in the treatment of some diseases, as well as new vaccines. One should also not forget the emergence of certain bacterial toxins as biological weapons (era of bioterrorism threats). This issue is considered in chapters dedicated to the relevant toxins (anthrax toxins, botulinal neurotoxins, the Shiga-like plant toxin, ricin) and is also discussed in a specific chapter.

The third edition of the Sourcebook is a genuine, timely production comprising 62 chapters (compared to 40 and 20 of the 1999 and 1991 editions, respectively) that are organized into five sections. They are written by a panel of 137 international experts (senior authors and coauthors), who have significantly contributed to the progress within their featured disciplines. About 55% of all contributors are new specialists who did not contribute to the preceding editions of the Sourcebook. Authors are from Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.A.

As editors, we are keen to provide the reader with a sound, authoritative, and interdisciplinary review highlighting the major advances in the field of bacterial protein toxins. Whenever possible, particular emphasis was placed on toxin involvement in the pathogenesis of the diseases caused by the relevant bacteria. At the same time, 14 totally new chapters were created to cover the historical and general aspects of toxinology.

We hope the Sourcebook will appeal to a wide readership, including microbiologists and particularly toxi-nologists, biochemists, cell biologists, clinicians, and medical students who wish to have a better understanding of bacterial toxins in relation to infectious diseases.

We are heavily indebted to all contributors who skillfully documented developments at the cutting edge of their disciplines. Their painstaking efforts are deeply appreciated.

We wish to express our deep thanks to Tessa Picknett, Senior Publisher at Academic Press, Elsevier and her coworkers, Bryony Lott, Victoria Lebedeva (London), and Jeff Freeland (Burlington, USA) for their encouragement and invaluable help through the preparation of this volume.

Joseph E. Alouf and Michel R. Popoff

0 0

Post a comment