Pathogenesis of Rickettsial Diseases: Pathogenic and Immune Mechanisms of an Endotheliotropic Infection

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18 Scopus citations


Obligately intracytosolic rickettsiae that cycle between arthropod and vertebrate hosts cause human diseases with a spectrum of severity, primarily by targeting microvascular endothelial cells, resulting in endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial cells and mononuclear phagocytes have important roles in the intracellular killing of rickettsiae upon activation by the effector molecules of innate and adaptive immunity. In overwhelming infection, immunosuppressive effects contribute to the severity of illness. Rickettsia-host cell interactions involve host cell receptors for rickettsial ligands that mediate cell adhesion and, in some instances, trigger induced phagocytosis. Rickettsiae interact with host cell actin to effect both cellular entry and intracellular actin-based mobility. The interaction of rickettsiae with the host cell also involves rickettsial evasion of host defense mechanisms and exploitation of the intracellular environment. Signal transduction events exemplify these effects. An intriguing frontier is the array of rickettsial noncoding RNA molecules and their potential effects on the pathogenesis and transmission of rickettsial diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-152
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Pathology: Mechanisms of Disease
StatePublished - 2019


  • Rickettsia -host cell interactions, endothelium, vascular permeability, innate immune signaling, immunosuppression, noncoding RNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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