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J Immunol. 2008 Jun 1;180(11):7516-24.

Anthrax lethal toxin enhances TNF-induced endothelial VCAM-1 expression via an IFN regulatory factor-1-dependent mechanism.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry and Vascular Biology, Division of Hematology, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Impaired host defenses and vascular dysfunction are hallmarks of the late, antibiotic-refractory stages of systemic anthrax infection. Anthrax lethal toxin (LT), a key virulence factor of Bacillus anthracis, was previously shown to enhance VCAM-1 expression on primary human endothelial cells suggesting a causative link between dysregulated adhesion molecule expression and the poor immune response and vasculitis associated with anthrax. In this study, we report that LT amplification of TNF-induced VCAM-1 expression is driven transcriptionally by the cooperative activation of NF-kappaB and IFN regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1). LT enhancement of NF-kappaB phosphorylation and nuclear translocation correlated temporally with a delayed reaccumulation of IkappaBalpha, while increased induction of IRF-1 was linked to STAT1 activation. LT failed to augment TNF-induced ICAM-1 or E-selectin expression, two adhesion molecules regulated by NF-kappaB, but not IRF-1. These results suggest that LT can differentially modulate NF-kappaB target genes and highlight the importance of IRF-1 in VCAM-1 enhancement. Altering the activity of key transcription factors involved in host response to infection may be a critical mechanism by which LT contributes to anthrax pathogenesis.

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