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Infect Immun. 1991 Oct;59(10):3472-7.

Contribution of individual toxin components to virulence of Bacillus anthracis.

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  • 1Unité des Antigènes Bactériens URA 557, CNRS), Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Three proteins, protective antigen (PA), lethal factor (LF), and edema factor (EF; a calmodulin-dependent adenylate cyclase), compose the lethal (PA + LF) and edema (PA + EF) toxins secreted by Bacillus anthracis. Mutant strains, each deficient in the production of one toxin component, were constructed, and their virulence was then studied. A kanamycin resistance cassette was inserted in each cya (encoding EF) and lef (encoding LF) gene, and the constructs were separately introduced into B. anthracis Sterne on a mobilizable shuttle plasmid. An EF- strain and an LF- strain were then isolated after homologous recombination with the resident toxin-encoding plasmid, pXO1. Spores from these mutants and from a previously constructed PA- mutant were used to inoculate mice, and the lethality and local edema formation were monitored. LF- or PA- mutants were not lethal even at high inocula, whereas the EF- mutant induced lethal infections. This indicates that LF in combination with PA is a key virulence factor required for lethality. Skin edema formation was observed with the LF- mutant, which produces only the combination of PA and EF. However, EF- and LF- mutants were significantly less efficient at inducing, respectively, lethality and edema than was the parental Sterne strain. These results suggest that the three toxin components might act synergistically in vivo to cause lethality and edema formation.

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