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Infect Immun. 1988 Sep;56(9):2228-34.

Effect of staphylococcal alpha-toxin on intracellular Ca2+ in polymorphonuclear leukocytes.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Giessen, Federal Republic of Germany.


Staphylococcal alpha-toxin, a channel-forming protein, stimulates leukotriene B4 formation in rabbit polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) (N. Suttorp, W. Seeger, J. Zucker-Reimann, L. Roka, and S. Bhakdi, Infect. Immun. 55:104-110, 1987). The concept was advanced that transmembrane toxin pores act as Ca2+ gates allowing passive Ca2+ influx into the cell, thus initiating stimulus response coupling. A critical step in this hypothesis is the demonstration of an increase in the cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration [( Ca2+]i). [Ca2+]i and membrane-associated Ca2+ were therefore monitored in quin-2- or chlorotetracycline-loaded PMN exposed to alpha-toxin. The effects of the Ca2+ ionophore ionomycin and the chemotactic tripeptide formylmethionyl-leucylphenylalanine (fMLP) were studied in parallel. All stimuli increased [Ca2+]i in dose- and time-dependent manner. In the presence of an EDTA excess there was a decrease of [Ca2+]i due to an efflux of Ca2+ in alpha-toxin- and ionomycin-treated cells, while addition of fMLP still induced an increase of [Ca2+]i. In the presence of verapamil, a Ca2+ channel blocker, [Ca2+]i was reduced after stimulation with fMLP but not with alpha-toxin or ionomycin. Addition of fMLP and ionomycin but not of alpha-toxin to PMN resulted in a rapid and substantial mobilization of membrane-associated Ca2+. The collective data demonstrate that exposure of PMN to staphylococcal alpha-toxin results in an increase in [Ca2+]i which is due to an influx of extracellular Ca2+ and not to a mobilization of intracellularly stored Ca2+. The concept of initiating stimulus response coupling by Ca2+ influx through transmembrane pores may be generally applicable to other channel-forming cytolysins.

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