The Secretion of Toxins and Other Exoproteins of Cronobacter: Role in Virulence, Adaption, and Persistence

Hyein Jang, Gopal R. Gopinath, Athmanya Eshwar, Shabarinath Srikumar, Scott Nguyen, Jayanthi Gangiredla, Isha R. Patel, Samantha B. Finkelstein, Flavia Negrete, Jung Ha Woo, You Young Lee, Séamus Fanning, Roger Stephan, Ben D. Tall*, Angelika Lehner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


Cronobacter species are considered an opportunistic group of foodborne pathogenic bacteria capable of causing both intestinal and systemic human disease. This review describes common virulence themes shared among the seven Cronobacter species and describes multiple exoproteins secreted by Cronobacter, many of which are bacterial toxins that may play a role in human disease. The review will particularly concentrate on the virulence factors secreted by C. sakazakii, C. malonaticus, and C. turicensis, which are the primary human pathogens of interest. It has been discovered that various species-specific virulence factors adversely affect a wide range of eukaryotic cell processes including protein synthesis, cell division, and ion secretion. Many of these factors are toxins which have been shown to also modulate the host immune response. These factors are encoded on a variety of mobile genetic elements such as plasmids and transposons; this genomic plasticity implies ongoing re-assortment of virulence factor genes which has complicated our efforts to categorize Cronobacter into sharply defined genomic pathotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number229
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 08 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was internally funded through U.S. FDA appropriations, and in part by the University of Maryland JIFSAN Program through a cooperative agreement with the FDA (no. FDU001418). Acknowledgments: We thank the student internship programs sponsored by the Office of International Affairs of Gachon University, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea for supporting student interns, JungHa Woo and YouYoung Lee. We thank the University of Maryland, Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) for supporting JIFSAN interns, Samantha Finkelstein and Flavia Negrete. We also thank the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Oak Ridge, Tennessee for sponsoring research fellow Hyein Jang.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Adherence factors
  • Efflux pumps
  • Iron transport
  • Osmotic stress response
  • Outer membrane proteins
  • Plasmids
  • Protein secretion systems
  • Quorum sensing systems
  • Virulence factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Virology


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