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Infect Immun. 2004 Feb;72(2):1116-25.

Gastroenteritis in NF-kappaB-deficient mice is produced with wild-type Camplyobacter jejuni but not with C. jejuni lacking cytolethal distending toxin despite persistent colonization with both strains.

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Division of Comparative Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Campylobacter jejuni continues to be a leading cause of bacterial enteritis in humans. However, because there are no readily available animal models to study the pathogenesis of C. jejuni-related diseases, the significance of potential virulence factors, such as cytolethal distending toxin (CDT), in vivo are poorly understood. Mice deficient in NF-kappaB subunits (p50(-/-) p65(+/-)) in a C57BL/129 background are particularly susceptible to colitis induced by another enterohepatic microaerobe, Helicobacter hepaticus, which, like C. jejuni, produces CDT. Wild-type C. jejuni 81-176 and an isogenic mutant lacking CDT activity (cdtB mutant) were inoculated into NF-kappaB-deficient (3X) and C57BL/129 mice. Wild-type C. jejuni colonized 29 and 50% of the C57BL/129 mice at 2 and 4 months postinfection (p.i.), respectively, whereas the C. jejuni cdtB mutant colonized 50% of the C57BL/129 mice at 2 p.i. but none of the mice at 4 months p.i. Although the C57BL/129 mice developed mild gastritis and typhlocolitis, they had robust immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Th1-promoted IgG2a humoral responses to both the wild-type strain and the C. jejuni cdtB mutant. In contrast, 75 to 100% of the 3X mice were colonized with both the wild type and the C. jejuni cdtB mutant at similar levels at all times examined. Wild-type C. jejuni caused moderately severe gastritis and proximal duodenitis in 3X mice that were more severe than the gastrointestinal lesions caused by the C. jejuni cdtB mutant. Persistent colonization of NF-kappaB-deficient mice with the wild type and the C. jejuni cdtB mutant was associated with significantly impaired IgG and IgG2a humoral responses (P < 0.001), which is consistent with an innate or adaptive immune system defect(s). These results suggest that the mechanism of clearance of C. jejuni is NF-kappaB dependent and that CDT may have proinflammatory activity in vivo, as well as a potential role in the ability of C. jejuni to escape immune surveillance. NF-kappaB-deficient mice should be a useful model to further study the role of CDT and other aspects of C. jejuni pathogenesis.

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