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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2002 Feb;282(2):L207-14.

Mediator generation and signaling events in alveolar epithelial cells attacked by S. aureus alpha-toxin.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Justus-Liebig University, Giessen D-35392, Germany.


Staphylococcus aureus alpha-toxin is a pore-forming bacterial exotoxin that has been implicated as a significant virulence factor in human staphylococcal diseases. In primary cultures of rat pneumocyte type II cells and the human A549 alveolar epithelial cell line, purified alpha-toxin provoked rapid-onset phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns) hydrolysis as well as liberation of nitric oxide and the prostanoids PGE(2), PGI(2), and thromboxane A(2). In addition, sustained upregulation of proinflammatory interleukin (IL)-8 mRNA expression and protein secretion occurred. "Priming" with low-dose IL-1beta markedly enhanced the IL-8 response to alpha-toxin, which was then accompanied by IL-6 appearance. The cytokine response was blocked by the intracellular Ca(2+)-chelating reagent 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy)-ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid, the protein kinase C inhibitor bis-indolyl maleimide I, as well as two independent inhibitors of nuclear factor-kappaB activation, pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate and caffeic acid phenethyl ester. We conclude that alveolar epithelial cells are highly reactive target cells of staphylococcal alpha-toxin. alpha-Toxin pore-associated transmembrane Ca(2+) flux and PtdIns hydrolysis-related signaling with downstream activation of protein kinase C and nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-kappaB are suggested to represent important underlying mechanisms. Such reactivity of the alveolar epithelial cells may be relevant for pathogenic sequelae in staphylococcal lung disease.

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