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J Biol Chem. 2003 Mar 7;278(10):7956-63. Epub 2002 Dec 19.

R-Ras glucosylation and transient RhoA activation determine the cytopathic effect produced by toxin B variants from toxin A-negative strains of Clostridium difficile.

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  • 1Microbiology and Tumorbiology Center, Box 280, Karolinska Institutet, S-17177 Stockholm, Sweden.


Clostridium difficile induces antibiotic-associated diarrhea through the production of toxin A and toxin B; the former toxin has been assumed to be responsible for the symptoms of the disease. Several toxin A-negative strains from C. difficile have recently been isolated from clinical cases and have been reported to produce toxin B variants eliciting an atypical cytopathic effect. Ultrastructural analysis indicated these toxins induce a rounding cytopathic effect and filopodia-like structures. Toxin B variants glucosylated R-Ras, and transfection with a constitutively active mutant of this GTPase protected cells against their cytopathic effect. Treatment of cells with toxin B variants induced detachment from the extracellular matrix and blockade of the epidermal growth factor-mediated phosphorylation of extracellular-regulated protein kinases, demonstrating a deleterious effect on the R-Ras-controlled avidity of integrins. Treatment with toxin B variants also induced a transient activation of RhoA probably because of inactivation of Rac1. Altogether, these data indicate that the cytopathic effect induced by toxin B variants is because of cell rounding and detachment mediated by R-Ras glucosylation, and the induction of filopodia-like structures is mediated by RhoA activation. Implications for the pathophysiology of C. difficile-induced diarrhea are discussed.

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