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J Surg Res. 2012 Aug;176(2):437-47. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2011.10.030. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

Human isolates of Cronobacter sakazakii bind efficiently to intestinal epithelial cells in vitro to induce monolayer permeability and apoptosis.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90027, USA.



Cronobacter sakazakii (CS) is an emerging opportunistic pathogen that causes life-threatening infections in infants. This pathogen has been implicated in the outbreaks of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) with associated rates of high mortality and morbidity. In this study, we compared the abilities of CS strains isolated from human and environmental sources to bind to intestinal epithelial cells and trigger apoptosis.


CS strains were isolated from human and environmental sources and their abilities to bind to intestinal epithelial cells were determined. Monolayer permeability was determined by transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) and horseradish peroxidase (HRP) leakage. Apoptosis was examined by ApoTag and AnnexinV-7AAD staining. PKC activation was evaluated by non-radioactive PepTag assay.


Human isolates of CS bind to rat and human enterocytes more efficiently than environmental strains. Additionally, these strains induced increased enterocyte monolayer permeability as indicated by a decrease in TEER and an increase in transcellular leakage of exogenously added HRP. Human isolates also caused tight junction disruption and significant apoptosis of enterocytes compared with environmental strains due to increased production of inducible nitric oxide. We also observed that human CS isolates caused 2-fold increase in the activation of phosphokinase C (PKC) than environmental strains. Blocking the PKC activity in enterocytes by an inhibitor, Gö 6983, suppressed CS-mediated tight junction disruption, monolayer permeability, and apoptosis of the cells.


These results suggest that human isolates of CS more efficiently bind to and cause damage to intestinal epithelial cells compared with environmental strains.

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