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Hum Exp Toxicol. 1996 Nov;15(11):904-8.

Assessment of aspects of the toxicity of Clostridium perfringens epsilon-toxin using the MDCK cell line.

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Protection and Life Sciences Division, CBD Porton Down, Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK.


1. The epithelial Madin Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cell line was used to study the toxicity of epsilon-toxin from Clostridium perfringens. The epithelial MDCK cell line is known to be sensitive to epsilon-toxin of Clostridium perfrigens and to investigate its mechanism of action, the neutral red assay has been used to dermine the viability of cultures of this cell line. 2. Comparison of the LC50s obtained at 34 degrees C and 0 degree C showed that the lethality of epsilon-toxin was reduced by 18-fold at the lower temperature. The effect of temperature on epsilon-toxin lethality is unlikely to be due to reductions in membrane fluidity for the addition of Ca2+ or Mg2+ (2 mM) to buffer containing toxin was without effect. Varying the pH of the toxin-containing buffer from 6.9 to 8.7 did not increase the lethality of the toxin, though the most acidic pH used (5.8) was found to potentiate its action on MDCK cells. 3. The effect of inhibiting endocytosis on the lethality of epsilon-toxin was also investigated by incubating cultures of MDCK cells with and without sodium azide over a range of concentrations of toxin. The co-administration of sodium azide did not reduce the toxicity of epsilon-toxin, suggesting that energy-dependent uptake processes such as endocytosis were unlikely to be involved in its mechanism of action. The results are, however, consistent with known receptor-based mechanisms of uptake and with other mechanisms of internalisation across the plasma membrane. epsilon-toxin thus interacts with cell surfaces by a temperature sensitive mechanism potentiated by low pH.

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