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Microb Pathog. 2008 Feb;44(2):118-28. Epub 2007 Aug 31.

Vibrio cholerae cytolysin is essential for high enterotoxicity and apoptosis induction produced by a cholera toxin gene-negative V. cholerae non-O1, non-O139 strain.

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Departamento de Bioquímica Clínica, Facultad de Ciencias Químicas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Centro de Investigaciones en Bioquímica e Inmunología ClBICI-CONICET, Córdoba, Argentina.


Cholera toxin (CT) gene-negative Vibrio cholerae non-O1, non-O139 strains may cause severe diarrhea though their pathogenic mechanism remains unclear. V. cholerae cytolysin (VCC) is a pore-forming exotoxin encoded in the hlyA gene of V. cholerae whose contribution to the pathogenesis is not fully understood. In this work, the virulence properties of a CT gene-negative V. cholerae non-O1, non-O139 strain causing a cholera-like syndrome were analyzed. Inoculation of rabbit ileal loops with the wild type strain induced extensive fluid accumulation, accompanied by severe histopathological damage characterized by villus shortening, lymphangiectasia and focal areas of necrosis. These pathogenic effects were abrogated by mutation of the hlyA gene thus pointing out the main role of VCC in the virulence of the strain. Interestingly, this toxin was capable of triggering apoptosis in human intestinal cell lines due to its anion channel activity. Moreover, the wild type strain also induced increased apoptosis of the intestinal epithelium cells which was not observed upon inoculation of the VCC null mutant strain, indicating that VCC may trigger apoptotic cell death during infection in vivo. Altogether, these results support a main role of VCC in the pathogenesis of the CT gene-negative V. cholerae non-O1, non-O139 strain and identify apoptosis as a previously unrecognized cell death pathway triggered by VCC.

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