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Microb Pathog. 1999 Nov;27(5):303-9.

The effect of the pneumococcal toxin, pneumolysin on brain ependymal cilia.

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University of Leicester, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester, LE2 7LX, U.K.


Densely ciliated ependymal cells cover the ventricular surface of the brain and cerebral aqueducts separating cerebrospinal fluid, which is infected in meningitis, from neuronal tissue. We have established an ex vivo model that allows measurement of ependymal ciliary beat frequency, using high-speed video analysis, during incubation with bacterial toxins. Ciliated ependyma, from Wistar rats, was exposed to the pneumococcal toxin, pneumolysin, and a mutant form with markedly reduced cytotoxic activity (;0.1%). Wild-type pneumolysin (1500 HU/ml and 150 HU/ml: 10 and 1 microg/ml) caused rapid ciliary stasis (30-150 s), sloughing of cilia and cytoplasmic extrusion. Ciliary slowing before stasis was seen at 15 HU/ml (0.1 microg/ml); however, no effect on ciliary beat frequency was seen at lower concentrations (1.5 HU/ml and 0.15 HU/ml: 0.01 and 0.001 microg/ml). Mutant pneumolysin, 99.9% deficient in haemolytic activity, caused rapid ciliary stasis at 10 microg/ml but no effect was seen at lower concentrations (1-0.1 microg/ml). Pneumolysin, at levels which may be produced during severe pneumococcal meningitis, may cause rapid ependymal ciliary stasis.

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