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J Infect Dis. 2005 Sep 1;192(5):837-45. Epub 2005 Jul 21.

Anthrax lethal toxin paralyzes neutrophil actin-based motility.

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Department of Medicine/Infectious Diseases, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


Bacillus anthracis causes high-level bacteremia, strongly suggesting paralysis of the innate immune system. We have examined the effects of anthrax lethal toxin (LT) on human neutrophil chemotaxis, a process that requires actin filament assembly. Polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) treated with a sublethal concentration of LT (50 ng/mL) for 2 h demonstrated insignificant apoptosis or necrosis. However, this same concentration slowed human PMN formylmethionylleucylphenylalanine (FMLP)-stimulated chemokinesis by >60%, markedly reduced polar morphology, and rendered PMNs incapable of responding to a chemotactic gradient. These changes were accompanied by a >50% reduction in FMLP-induced actin filament assembly. One hour of exposure to LT failed to impair polarity or actin assembly, and the effects of LT were independent of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1 inhibition. We conclude that 2 h of exposure to LT markedly impairs PMN actin assembly, and reductions in actin filament content are accompanied by a profound paralysis of PMN chemotaxis.

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