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Infect Immun. Oct 1987; 55(10): 2526–2530.
PMCID: PMC260740

Production of a unique cytotoxin by Campylobacter jejuni.

Abstract

Campylobacter jejuni is an important diarrheal pathogen worldwide; the mechanisms by which it causes disease remain unclear. Because of its association with inflammatory diarrhea, we postulated that C. jejuni might produce a cytotoxin similar to that produced by Shigella sp., enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157, or Clostridium difficile. Filtrates of 12 polymyxin-treated isolates of C. jejuni were placed on HeLa cells (sensitive to Shiga toxin cytotoxicity) and Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. Of 12 isolates of C. jejuni tested, 5 killed 50% of the cells at greater than or equal to 1:4 dilutions of filtered suspensions of 10(9) bacteria per ml; killing was similar in HeLa and CHO cells (the CHO cells being insensitive to Shiga cytotoxin). One isolate produced a titer of 1:32 to 1:128. The relative potency in HeLa cells was comparable to that of E. coli strains that produce intermediate amounts of Shiga-like toxin. The other seven strains showed no cytotoxic effect, nor did the control diluents, polymyxin B, or supernatants of C. jejuni not treated with polymyxin B. Sonication also released active cytotoxin, but slightly less well than did polymyxin. The cytotoxic effect was dose dependent. Concentration of the C. jejuni in suspension by 10-fold before treatment with polymyxin B resulted in a 10-fold increase in the 50% cytotoxic dose. The cytotoxin effect was not neutralized by Shiga toxin immune serum against either Shiga-like toxin I or II or by anti-Clostridium difficile antiserum. The C jejuni cytotoxin was partially labile to trypsin (0.25%) and to heating to greater than or equal to 60 degrees C. Cytotoxicity was retained in Scientific Products dialysis tubing D1615-1 (Mr cutoff, 12,000 to 14,000). Some isolates of C. jejuni release a substance lethal to HeLa or CHO cells in vitro that is distinct from Shiga-like or Clostridium difficile toxin. This cytotoxin may contribute to the colonic mucosal invasive process that characterizes C. jejuni enteritis.

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Selected References

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