Intracellular pathogens have evolved a wide range of strategies to not only escape from the immune systems of their hosts, but also to directly exploit a variety of host factors to facilitate the infection process. One such strategy is to subvert host cell signalling pathways to the advantage of the pathogen. Recent research has highlighted that the human serine/threonine kinase PAK, or p21-activated kinase, is a central component of host-pathogen interactions in many infection systems involving viruses, bacteria, and eukaryotic pathogens. PAK paralogues are found in most mammalian tissues, where they play vital roles in a wide range of functions. The role of PAKs in cell proliferation and survival, and their involvement in a number of cancers, is of great interest in the context of drug discovery. In this review we discuss the latest insights into the surprisingly central role human PAK1 plays for the infection by such different infectious disease agents as viruses, bacteria, and parasitic protists. It is our intention to open serious discussion on the applicability of PAK inhibitors for the treatment, not only of neoplastic diseases, which is currently the primary objective of drug discovery research targeting these enzymes, but also of a wide range of infectious diseases.
- Host-pathogen interactions