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Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2013 Aug 13;3:38. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2013.00038. eCollection 2013.

Staphylococcal entertotoxins of the enterotoxin gene cluster (egcSEs) induce nitrous oxide- and cytokine dependent tumor cell apoptosis in a broad panel of human tumor cells.

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Molecular Genetics Program, Jenomic Research Institute, Carmel, CA 93953 , USA.


The egcSEs comprise five genetically linked staphylococcal enterotoxins, SEG, SEI, SElM, SElN, and SElO and two pseudotoxins which constitute an operon present in up to 80% of Staphylococcus aureus isolates. A preparation containing these proteins was recently used to treat advanced lung cancer with pleural effusion. We investigated the hypothesis that egcSEs induce nitrous oxide (NO) and associated cytokine production and that these agents may be involved in tumoricidal effects against a broad panel of clinically relevant human tumor cells. Preliminary studies showed that egcSEs and SEA activated T cells (range: 11-25%) in a concentration dependent manner. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) stimulated with equimolar quantities of egcSEs expressed NO synthase and generated robust levels of nitrite (range: 200-250 μM), a breakdown product of NO; this reaction was inhibited by NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA) (0.3 mM), an NO synthase antagonist. Cell free supernatants (CSFs) of all egcSE-stimulated PBMCs were also equally effective in inducing concentration dependent tumor cell apoptosis in a broad panel of human tumor cells. The latter effect was due in part to the generation of NO and TNF-α since it was significantly abolished by L-NMMA, anti-TNF-α antibodies, respectively, and a combination thereof. A hierarchy of tumor cell sensitivity to these CFSs was as follows: lung carcinoma > osteogenic sarcoma > melanoma > breast carcinoma >neuroblastoma. Notably, SEG induced robust activation of NO/TNFα-dependent tumor cell apoptosis comparable to the other egcSEs and SEA despite TNF-α and IFN-γ levels that were 2 and 8 fold lower, respectively, than the other egcSEs and SEA. Thus, egcSEs produced by S. aureus induce NO synthase and the increased NO formation together with TNF-α appear to contribute to egcSE-mediated apoptosis against a broad panel of human tumor cells.


Staphylococcus aureus; egcSE superantigens; nitrous oxide; tumor cell apoptosis

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