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J Clin Invest. 2000 Apr;105(8):1147-56.

p38 MAP kinase activation by Clostridium difficile toxin A mediates monocyte necrosis, IL-8 production, and enteritis.

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Gastroenterology Division, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Clostridium difficile toxin A causes acute neutrophil infiltration and intestinal mucosal injury. In cultured cells, toxin A inactivates Rho proteins by monoglucosylation. In monocytes, toxin A induces IL-8 production and necrosis by unknown mechanisms. We investigated the role of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases in these events. In THP-1 monocytic cells, toxin A activated the 3 main MAP kinase cascades within 1 to 2 minutes. Activation of p38 was sustained, whereas stimulation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases and c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase was transient. Rho glucosylation became evident after 15 minutes. IL-8 gene expression was reduced by 70% by the MEK inhibitor PD98059 and abrogated by the p38 inhibitor SB203580 or by overexpression of dominant-negative mutants of the p38-activating kinases MKK3 and MKK6. SB203580 also blocked monocyte necrosis and IL-1beta release caused by toxin A but not by other toxins. Finally, in mouse ileum, SB203580 prevented toxin A-induced neutrophil recruitment by 92% and villous destruction by 90%. Thus, in monocytes exposed to toxin A, MAP kinase activation appears to precede Rho glucosylation and is required for IL-8 transcription and cell necrosis. p38 MAP kinase also mediates intestinal inflammation and mucosal damage induced by toxin A.

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