Translocation of verotoxin-1 across T84 monolayers: mechanism of bacterial toxin penetration of epithelium Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) are pathogenic bacteria associated with diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome. Verotoxins (VTs) elaborated by these organisms produce cytopathic effects on a restricted number of cell types, including endothelial cells lining the microvasculature of the bowel and the kidney. Because human intestinal epithelial cells lack the globotriaosylceramide receptor for VT binding, it is unclear how the toxin moves across the intestinal mucosa to the systemic circulation. The aims of this study were to determine the effects of VT-1 on intestinal epithelial cell function and to characterize VT-1 translocation across monolayers of T84 cells, an intestinal epithelial cell line. VT-1 at concentrations up to 1 μg/ml had no effect on the barrier function of T84 monolayers as assessed by measuring transmonolayer electrical resistance (102 ± 8% of control monolayers). In contrast, both VT-positive and VT-negative VTEC bacterial strains lowered T84 transmonolayer resistance (45 ± 7 and 38 ± 6% of controls, respectively). Comparable amounts of toxin moved across monolayers of T84 cells, exhibiting high-resistance values, as monolayers with VTEC-induced decreases in barrier function, suggesting a transcellular mode of transport. Translocation of VT-1 across T84 monolayers paralleled the movement of a comparably sized protein, horseradish peroxidase. Immunoelectron microscopy confirmed transcellular transport of VT-1, since the toxin was observed within endosomes and associated with specific intracellular targets, including the Golgi network and endoplasmic reticulum. These data present a mode of VT-1 uptake by toxin-insensitive cells and suggest a general mechanism by which bacterial toxins lacking specific intestinal receptors can penetrate the intestinal epithelial barrier.


  • Philpott, Dana J
  • Ackerley, Cameron A
  • Kiliaan, Amanda J
  • Karmali, Mohamed A
  • Perdue, Mary
  • Sherman, Philip M

publication date

  • December 1, 1997

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