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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2000 Sep;29(1):39-45.

Staphylococcus aureus alpha-toxin induces apoptosis in endothelial cells.

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Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.


The internalization of Staphylococcus aureus by cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells was recently shown to induce apoptosis. We examined the role of alpha-toxin, a major pore-forming toxin secreted by S. aureus, in causing apoptosis in vitro. Purified alpha-toxin, at sublytic concentrations, induced apoptosis in endothelial cell monolayers. Comparisons of two alpha-toxin (hla)-positive S. aureus strains and their isogenic hla-deficient mutants in the invasion assay of endothelial cells demonstrated that the capacity to produce alpha-toxin was associated with a greater propensity for apoptosis in endothelial cells. These results demonstrate for the first time that expression of alpha-toxin during endothelial cell invasion by S. aureus enhances apoptosis.

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