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1.  Interaction between Leukotoxin and Cu,Zn Superoxide Dismutase in Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(9):4490-4497.
Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans is a gram-negative oral pathogen that is the etiologic agent of localized aggressive periodontitis and systemic infections. A. actinomycetemcomitans produces leukotoxin (LtxA), which is a member of the RTX (repeats in toxin) family of secreted bacterial toxins and is known to target human leukocytes and erythrocytes. To better understand how LtxA functions as a virulence factor, we sought to detect and study potential A. actinomycetemcomitans proteins that interact with LtxA. We found that Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) interacts specifically with LtxA. Cu,Zn SOD was purified from A. actinomycetemcomitans to homogeneity and remained enzymatically active. Purified Cu,Zn SOD allowed us to isolate highly specific anti-Cu,Zn SOD antibody and this antibody was used to further confirm protein interaction. Cu,Zn SOD-deficient mutants displayed decreased survival in the presence of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and could be complemented with wild-type Cu,Zn SOD in trans. We suggest that A. actinomycetemcomitans Cu,Zn SOD may protect both bacteria and LtxA from reactive species produced by host inflammatory cells during disease. This is the first example of a protein-protein interaction involving a bacterial Cu,Zn SOD.
PMCID: PMC1951164  PMID: 17635874
2.  TdeA, a TolC-like protein required for toxin and drug export in Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans 
Gene  2006;388(1-2):83-92.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitansW is an oral bacterium that causes localized aggressive periodontitis (LAP) and extra-oral infections such as sub-acute infective endocarditis. As part of its array of virulence factors, A. actinomycetemcomitans produces leukotoxin (LtxA), a member of the RTX family of toxins. LtxA kills human leukocytes and we have recently shown that the toxin is required for β -hemolysis by A. actinomycetemcomitans on solid medium. In other RTX toxin-producing bacteria, an outer membrane channel-forming protein, TolC, is required for toxin secretion and drug export. We have identified an ORF in A. actinomycetemcomitans that encodes a putative protein having predicted structural properties similar to TolC. Inactivation of this ORF resulted in a mutant that was no longer β -hemolytic and did not secrete LtxA. This mutant was significantly more sensitive to antimicrobial agents compared to the wild type strain and was unable to export the antimicrobial agent berberine. Thus, this ORF was named tdeA for “toxin and drug export”. Examination of the DNA sequence surrounding tdeA revealed two upstream ORFs that encode proteins similar to the drug efflux proteins, MacA and MacB. Inactivation of macB in A. actinomycetemcomitans did not alter the drug sensitivity profile or the hemolytic activity of the mutant. The genes macA, macB and tdeA are organized as an operon and are constitutively expressed as a single transcript. These results show that A. actinomycetemcomitans indeed requires a TolC-like protein for LtxA secretion and that this protein, TdeA, also functions as part of a drug efflux system.
PMCID: PMC1831674  PMID: 17116373
leukotoxin; periodontitis; endocarditis; outer membrane protein; antibiotics
3.  Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans Leukotoxin 
Journal of Dental Research  2010;89(6):561-570.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is a Gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the human oral cavity and is the causative agent for localized aggressive periodontitis (LAP), an aggressive form of periodontal disease that occurs in adolescents. A. actinomycetemcomitans secretes a protein toxin, leukotoxin (LtxA), which helps the bacterium evade the host immune response during infection. LtxA is a membrane-active toxin that specifically targets white blood cells (WBCs). In this review, we discuss recent developments in this field, including the identification and characterization of genes and proteins involved in secretion, regulation of LtxA, biosynthesis, newly described activities of LtxA, and how LtxA may be used as a therapy for the treatment of diseases.
PMCID: PMC3144085  PMID: 20200418
leukemia; periodontitis; RTX toxin; LAP
4.  Screen for Leukotoxin Mutants in Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans: Genes of the Phosphotransferase System Are Required for Leukotoxin Biosynthesis▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(8):3561-3568.
Aggregatibacter (formerly Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans is a pathogen that causes localized aggressive periodontitis and extraoral infections including infective endocarditis. Recently, we reported that A. actinomycetemcomitans is beta-hemolytic on certain growth media due to the production of leukotoxin (LtxA). Based on this observation and our ability to generate random transposon insertions in A. actinomycetemcomitans, we developed and carried out a rapid screen for LtxA mutants. Using PCR, we mapped several of the mutations to genes that are known or predicted to be required for LtxA production, including ltxA, ltxB, ltxD, and tdeA. In addition, we identified an insertion in a gene previously not recognized to be involved in LtxA biosynthesis, ptsH. ptsH encodes the protein HPr, a phosphocarrier protein that is part of the sugar phosphotransferase system. HPr results in the phosphorylation of other proteins and ultimately in the activation of adenylate cyclase and cyclic AMP (cAMP) production. The ptsH mutant showed only partial hemolysis on blood agar and did not produce LtxA. The phenotype was complemented by supplying wild-type ptsH in trans, and real-time PCR analysis showed that the ptsH mutant produced approximately 10-fold less ltxA mRNA than the wild-type strain. The levels of cAMP in the ptsH mutant were significantly lower than in the wild-type strain, and LtxA production could be restored by adding exogenous cAMP to the culture.
PMCID: PMC2493242  PMID: 18541661
5.  A Comparison of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (Aa) Virulence Traits in a Rat Model for Periodontal Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69382.
Our aim was to explore the effects of Cytolethal Distending toxin (Cdt) in a well established rat model of periodontal disease where leukotoxin (LtxA) was thought to have no known effect. In vitro studies, were used to assess CdtB activity using Aa Leukotoxin as a negative control. These studies showed that both CdtB and LtxA (unexpectedly) exerted significant effects on CD4+ T cells. As a result we decided to compare the effects of these two prominent Aa virulence factors on bone loss using our rat model of Aa-induced periodontitis. In this model, Aa strains, mutant in cdtB and ltxA, were compared to their parent non-mutant strains and evaluated for colonization, antibody response to Aa, bone loss and disease. We found that bone loss/disease caused by the ltxA mutant strain, in which cdtB was expressed, was significantly less (p<0.05) than that due to the wild type strain. On the other hand, the disease caused by cdtB mutant strain, in which ltxA was expressed, was not significantly different from the wild type strain. This data indicates that Aa LtxA exerts a greater effect on bone loss than Cdt in this rat model of periodontal disease and supports the utility of this model to dissect specific virulence factors as they relate to immunopathology in studies of Aa-induced disease.
PMCID: PMC3720274  PMID: 23936002
6.  Mlc Is a Transcriptional Activator with a Key Role in Integrating Cyclic AMP Receptor Protein and Integration Host Factor Regulation of Leukotoxin RNA Synthesis in Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(10):2284-2297.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a periodontal pathogen, synthesizes leukotoxin (LtxA), a protein that helps the bacterium evade the host immune response. Transcription of the ltxA operon is induced during anaerobic growth. The cyclic AMP (cAMP) receptor protein (CRP) indirectly increases ltxA expression, but the intermediary regulator is unknown. Integration host factor (IHF) binds to and represses the leukotoxin promoter, but neither CRP nor IHF is responsible for the anaerobic induction of ltxA RNA synthesis. Thus, we have undertaken studies to identify other regulators of leukotoxin transcription and to demonstrate how these proteins work together to modulate leukotoxin synthesis. First, analyses of ltxA RNA expression from defined leukotoxin promoter mutations in the chromosome identify positions −69 to −35 as the key control region and indicate that an activator protein modulates leukotoxin transcription. We show that Mlc, which is a repressor in Escherichia coli, functions as a direct transcriptional activator in A. actinomycetemcomitans; an mlc deletion mutant reduces leukotoxin RNA synthesis, and recombinant Mlc protein binds specifically at the −68 to −40 region of the leukotoxin promoter. Furthermore, we show that CRP activates ltxA expression indirectly by increasing the levels of Mlc. Analyses of Δmlc, Δihf, and Δihf Δmlc strains demonstrate that Mlc can increase RNA polymerase (RNAP) activity directly and that IHF represses ltxA RNA synthesis mainly by blocking Mlc binding. Finally, a Δihf Δmlc mutant still induces ltxA during anaerobic growth, indicating that there are additional factors involved in leukotoxin transcriptional regulation. A model for the coordinated regulation of leukotoxin transcription is presented.
PMCID: PMC3650521  PMID: 23475968
7.  Gangliosides Block Aggregatibacter Actinomycetemcomitans Leukotoxin (LtxA)-Mediated Hemolysis  
Toxins  2010;2(12):2824-2836.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is an oral pathogen and etiologic agent of localized aggressive periodontitis. The bacterium is also a cardiovascular pathogen causing infective endocarditis. A. actinomycetemcomitans produces leukotoxin (LtxA), an important virulence factor that targets white blood cells (WBCs) and plays a role in immune evasion during disease. The functional receptor for LtxA on WBCs is leukocyte function antigen-1 (LFA-1), a β-2 integrin that is modified with N-linked carbohydrates. Interaction between toxin and receptor leads to cell death. We recently discovered that LtxA can also lyse red blood cells (RBCs) and hemolysis may be important for pathogenesis of A. actinomycetemcomitans. In this study, we further investigated how LtxA might recognize and lyse RBCs. We found that, in contrast to a related toxin, E. coli α-hemolysin, LtxA does not recognize glycophorin on RBCs. However, gangliosides were able to completely block LtxA-mediated hemolysis. Furthermore, LtxA did not show a preference for any individual ganglioside. LtxA also bound to ganglioside-rich C6 rat glioma cells, but did not kill them. Interaction between LtxA and C6 cells could be blocked by gangliosides with no apparent specificity. Gangliosides were only partially effective at preventing LtxA-mediated cytotoxicity of WBCs, and the effect was only observed when a high ratio of ganglioside:LtxA was used over a short incubation period. Based on the results presented here, we suggest that because of the similarity between N-linked sugars on LFA-1 and the structures of gangliosides, LtxA may have acquired the ability to lyse RBCs.
PMCID: PMC3153184  PMID: 22069577
erythrocytes; toxin; periodontal disease; endocarditis; RTX toxin
8.  Human CD18 Is the Functional Receptor for Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans Leukotoxin▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(10):4851-4856.
Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans is the causative organism of localized aggressive periodontitis, a rapidly progressing degenerative disease of the gingival and periodontal ligaments, and is also implicated in causing subacute infective endocarditis in humans. The bacterium produces a variety of virulence factors, including an exotoxic leukotoxin (LtxA) that is a member of the repeats-in-toxin (RTX) family of bacterial cytolysins. LtxA exhibits a unique specificity to macrophages and polymorphonuclear cells of humans and other primates. Human lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) has been implicated as the putative receptor for LtxA. Human LFA-1 comprises the CD11a and CD18 subunits. It is not clear, however, which of its subunits serves as the functional receptor that confers species-specific susceptibility to LtxA. Here we demonstrate that the human CD18 is the receptor for LtxA based on experiments performed with chimeric β2-integrins recombinantly expressed in a cell line that is resistant to LtxA effects. In addition, we show that the cysteine-rich tandem repeats encompassing integrin-epidermal growth factor-like domains 2, 3, and 4 of the extracellular region of human CD18 are critical for conferring susceptibility to LtxA-induced biological effects.
PMCID: PMC2044523  PMID: 17635865
9.  Evaluation of the humoral immune response to the cytolethal distending toxin of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans Y4 in subjects with localized aggressive periodontitis 
Oral microbiology and immunology  2009;24(2):116-123.
Cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt) is potentially one of several virulence factors of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, the prime etiological agent of localized aggressive periodontitis (LAP). Little is known regarding the Cdt-specific antibody response in humans. The current study is a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the toxin-specific antibody response in a cohort of LAP patients and age-, race- and sex-matched controls.
Ninety-five subjects provided a total of 692 serum samples. Sera were analysed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to determine the titers of antibody against the intact Cdt holotoxin as well as the individual subunit proteins (CdtA, CdtB, and CdtC). Neutralization of growth inhibition mediated by Cdt was evaluated in a modified colony-forming assay using Chinese hamster ovary cells.
Fourteen of the 95 subjects exhibited significant serum Cdt-binding activity. There were no differences in the percentages of seropositive individuals or in the mean antibody titers between the control and LAP groups. Binding activity was detected against each of the three Cdt subunit proteins in all of the positive samples. Neutralization of Cdt-mediated growth inhibition was detected in samples from all of the seropositive subjects (range 20–75%).
Cdt, a recently identified A. actinomycetemcomitans virulence factor, is capable of inducing a neutralizing antibody response indicating that the toxin is produced during natural infection of humans. The failure of a vast majority (20 of 23) of the LAP subjects to mount a significant anti-Cdt response may in part explain their relative susceptibility to the disease.
PMCID: PMC2732719  PMID: 19239638
Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans; antibody; cytolethal distending toxin; localized aggressive periodontitis
10.  Regulation of Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans Leukotoxin Secretion by Iron▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(24):8658-8661.
The gram-negative oral and systemic pathogen Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans produces a leukotoxin (LtxA) that is a member of the RTX (repeats in toxin) family of secreted bacterial toxins. We have recently shown that LtxA has the ability to lyse erythrocytes, which results in a beta-hemolytic phenotype on Columbia blood agar. To determine if LtxA is regulated by iron, we examined beta-hemolysis under iron-rich and iron-limiting conditions. Beta-hemolysis was suppressed in the presence of FeCl3. In contrast, strong beta-hemolysis occurred in the presence of the iron chelator deferoxamine. We found that secretion of LtxA was completely inhibited by free iron, but expression of ltxA was not regulated by iron. Free chromium, cobalt, and magnesium did not affect LtxA secretion. Other LtxA-associated genes were not regulated by iron. Thus, iron appears to play an important role in the regulation of LtxA secretion in A. actinomycetemcomitans in a manner independent of gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC1698250  PMID: 17041062
11.  Membrane Morphology and Leukotoxin Secretion Are Associated with a Novel Membrane Protein of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(17):5972-5980.
Gram-negative bacteria display either a flat or an irregular outer membrane. The periodontal pathogen Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans has an irregular outer membrane. We have identified a gene that is associated with the biogenesis of this morphology. The gene is part of a three-gene operon and codes for a 141-kDa protein designated morphogenesis protein C (MorC), which is conserved in several gram-negative bacteria including Haemophilus influenzae and Pasteurella multocida. Insertional inactivation of this gene resulted in the conversion of an irregularly shaped membrane to a flat membrane. Associated with this morphological change were the autoaggregation of the bacteria during planktonic growth and a concomitant increase in the surface hydrophobicity of the bacterium. The absence of MorC also resulted in the loss of the secretion of leukotoxin but not the ltxA transcription. Our findings suggest that MorC is critical for membrane morphology and leukotoxin secretion in A. actinomycetemcomitans.
PMCID: PMC2519528  PMID: 18621903
12.  Effects of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans leukotoxin on endothelial cells☆ 
Microbial Pathogenesis  2013;61-62(100):43-50.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is a human pathogen that produces leukotoxin (LtxA) as a major virulence factor. In this study the effect of LtxA on microvascular endothelial cell viability and phenotype was studied. High doses of single LtxA treatment (500 ng/ml to 5 μg/ml) significantly and irreversibly decreased cell proliferation and induced apoptosis, as assessed by tetrazolium salt and annexin V assay, respectively. Apoptosis was partially inhibited by the pan-caspase inhibitor, z-VAD-fmk. LtxA caused a cell cycle arrest in the G2/M phase after 72 h. Between 500 ng/ml and 5 μg/ml, after long- or short-term stimulation LtxA increased the expression of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1, as well as the percentages of endothelial cells expressing these adhesion molecules. Thus, A. actinomycetemcomitans LtxA has substantial pro-inflammatory effects on human brain endothelial cells by upregulation of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1. Furthermore, LtxA in higher concentration was found to decrease proliferation and induces apoptosis in microvascular endothelial cells.
•LtxA has anti-proliferative effects on endothelial cells.•LtxA induces a G2/M phase cell cycle arrest in endothelial cells.•LtxA induces apoptosis in endothelial cells.•LtxA increased expression of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 in endothelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3885975  PMID: 23665198
Endothelium; Leukotoxin; Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans; Apoptosis; Activation
13.  Immune response to cytolethal distending toxin of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans in periodontitis patients 
Journal of periodontal research  2010;45(4):471-480.
Background and Objective
Cytolethal distending toxin (CDT) is a genotoxin produced by Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans. In spite of its association with pathogenesis, little is known about the humoral immune response against the CDT. This study aimed to test whether subgingival colonization and humoral response to A. actinomycetemcomitans would lead to a response against CDT.
Material and Methods
Sera from periodontally healthy, localized and generalized aggressive periodontitis and chronic periodontitis subjects (n = 80) were assessed for immunoglobulin G titers to A. actinomycetemcomitans serotypes a/b/c and to each CDT subunit (CdtA, CdtB and CdtC) by ELISA. A. actinomycetemcomitans subgingival levels and neutralization of CDT activity were also analyzed.
Sera from 75.0% localized and 81.8% generalized aggressive periodontitis patients reacted to A. actinomycetemcomitans. A response to serotype b was detected in localized (66.7%) and generalized aggressive periodontitis (54.5%). Reactivity to A. actinomycetemcomitans correlated with subgingival colonization (R = 0.75, p < 0.05). There was no correlation between A. actinomycetemcomitans colonization or response to serotypes and the immunoglobulin G response to CDT subunits. Titers of immunoglobulin G to CdtA and CdtB did not differ among groups; however, sera of all generalized aggressive periodontitis patients reacted to CdtC. Neutralization of CDT was not correlated with levels of antibodies to CDT subunits.
Response to CdtA and CdtB did not correlate with the periodontal status of the subject in the context of an A. actinomycetemcomitans infection. However, a response to CdtC was found in sera of generalized but not of localized aggressive periodontitis subjects. Differences in response to CdtC between generalized and localized aggressive periodontitis subjects indicate that CDT could be expressed differently by the infecting strains. Alternatively, the antibody response to CdtC could require the colonization of multiple sites.
PMCID: PMC3534802  PMID: 20337882
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans; cytolethal distending toxin; enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA); immunoglobulin G; serotype
14.  Cytolethal Distending Toxin in Isolates of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans from Ghanaian Adolescents and Association with Serotype and Disease Progression 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65781.
Background and Objectives
The cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt) is a highly conserved exotoxin that are produced by a number of Gram negative bacteria, including Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, and affects mammalian cells by inhibiting cell division and causing apoptosis. A complete cdt-operon is present in the majority of A. actinomycetemcomitans, but the proportion of isolates that lack cdt-encoding genes (A, B and C) varies according to the population studied. The objectives of this study were to examine serotype, Cdt-genotype, and Cdt-activity in isolates of A. actinomycetemcomitans collected from an adolescent West African population and to examine the association between the carrier status of A. actinomycetemcomitans and the progression of attachment loss (AL).
Materials and Methods
A total of 249 A. actinomycetemcomitans isolates from 200 Ghanaian adolescents were examined for serotype and cdt-genotype by PCR. The activity of the Cdt-toxin was examined by DNA-staining of exposed cultured cells and documented with flow cytometry. The periodontal status of the participants was examined at baseline and at a two-year follow-up.
Presence of all three cdt-encoding genes was detected in 79% of the examined A. actinomycetemcomitans isolates. All these isolates showed a substantial Cdt-activity. The two different cdt-genotypes (with and without presence of all three cdt-encoding genes) showed a serotype-dependent distribution pattern. Presence of A. actinomycetemcomitans was significantly associated with progression of AL (OR = 5.126; 95% CI = [2.994–8.779], p<0.001).
A. actinomycetemcomitans isolated from the Ghanaian adolescents showed a distribution of serotype and cdt-genotype in line with results based on other previously studied populations. Presence of A. actinomycetemcomitans was significantly associated with disease progression, in particular the b serotype, whereas the association with disease progression was not particularly related to cdt-genotype, and Cdt-activity.
PMCID: PMC3683020  PMID: 23922633
15.  Perinuclear Localization of Internalized Outer Membrane Vesicles Carrying Active Cytolethal Distending Toxin from Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(1):31-42.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is implicated in aggressive forms of periodontitis. Similarly to several other Gram-negative species, this organism produces and excretes a cytolethal distending toxin (CDT), a genotoxin associated with cell distention, G2 cell cycle arrest, and/or apoptosis in many mammalian cell types. In this study, we have identified A. actinomycetemcomitans outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) as a vehicle for simultaneous delivery of multiple proteins, including CDT, into human cells. The OMV proteins were internalized in both HeLa cells and human gingival fibroblasts (HGF) via a mechanism of OMV fusion with lipid rafts in the plasma membrane. The active toxin unit, CdtB, was localized inside the nucleus of the intoxicated cells, whereas OmpA and proteins detected using an antibody specific to whole A. actinomycetemcomitans serotype a cells had a perinuclear distribution. In accordance with a tight association of CdtB with OMVs, vesicles isolated from A. actinomycetemcomitans strain D7SS (serotype a), in contrast to OMVs from a D7SS cdtABC mutant, induced a cytolethal distending effect on HeLa and HGF cells, indicating that OMV-associated CDT was biologically active. Association of CDT with OMVs was also observed in A. actinomycetemcomitans isolates belonging to serotypes b and c, indicating that OMV-mediated release of CDT may be conserved in A. actinomycetemcomitans. Although the role of A. actinomycetemcomitans OMVs in periodontal disease has not yet been elucidated, our present data suggest that OMVs could deliver biologically active CDT and additional virulence factors into susceptible cells of the periodontium.
PMCID: PMC3255663  PMID: 22025516
16.  The Cytolethal Distending Toxin Induces Receptor Activator of NF-κB Ligand Expression in Human Gingival Fibroblasts and Periodontal Ligament Cells  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(1):342-351.
Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans is associated with localized aggressive periodontitis, a disease characterized by rapid loss of the alveolar bone surrounding the teeth. Receptor activator of NF-κB Ligand (RANKL) and osteoprotegerin (OPG) are two molecules that regulate osteoclast formation and bone resorption. RANKL induces osteoclast differentiation and activation, whereas OPG blocks this process by acting as a decoy receptor for RANKL. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of A. actinomycetemcomitans on the expression of RANKL and OPG in human gingival fibroblasts and periodontal ligament cells. RANKL mRNA expression was induced in both cell types challenged by A. actinomycetemcomitans extract, whereas OPG mRNA expression remained unaffected. Cell surface RANKL protein was also induced by A. actinomycetemcomitans, whereas there was no change in OPG protein secretion. A cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt) gene-knockout strain of A. actinomycetemcomitans did not induce RANKL expression, in contrast to its wild-type strain. Purified Cdt from Haemophilus ducreyi alone, or in combination with extract from the A. actinomycetemcomitans cdt mutant strain, induced RANKL expression. Pretreatment of A. actinomycetemcomitans wild-type extract with Cdt antiserum abolished RANKL expression. In conclusion, A. actinomycetemcomitans induces RANKL expression in periodontal connective tissue cells. Cdt is crucial for this induction and may therefore be involved in the pathological bone resorption during the process of localized aggressive periodontitis.
PMCID: PMC538937  PMID: 15618171
17.  Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans Cytolethal Distending Toxin Induces Apoptosis in Nonproliferating Macrophages by a Phosphatase-Independent Mechanism▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(8):3161-3169.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans strains that express cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt) are associated with localized aggressive periodontitis. However, the in vivo targets of Cdt in the human oral cavity have not been firmly established. Here, we demonstrate that A. actinomycetemcomitans Cdt kills proliferating and nonproliferating U937 monocytic cells at a comparable specific activity, approximately 1.5-fold lower than that against the Cdt-hypersensitive Jurkat T-cell line. Cdt functioned both as a DNase and a phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PIP3) phosphatase, and these activities were distinguished by site-specific mutagenesis of the active site residues of CdtB. Using these mutants, we determined that the DNase activity of CdtB is required for cell cycle arrest and caspase-dependent induction of apoptosis in proliferating U937 cells. In contrast, Cdt holotoxin induced apoptosis by a mechanism independent of caspase- and apoptosis-inducing factor in nonproliferating U937 cells. Furthermore, apoptosis of nonproliferating U937 cells was unaffected by the Cdt mutant possessing reduced phosphatase activity or by the addition of a specific PIP3 phosphatase inhibitor, suggesting that the induction of apoptosis is independent of phosphatase activity. These results indicate that Cdt intoxication of proliferating and nonproliferating U937 cells occurs by distinct mechanisms and suggest that macrophages may also be potential in vivo targets of Cdt.
PMCID: PMC2715655  PMID: 19470743
18.  Evidence that the cytolethal distending toxin locus was once part of a genomic island in the periodontal pathogen Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans strain Y4 
Journal of medical microbiology  2007;56(Pt 11):1519-1527.
The authors have previously shown that the periodontal pathogen Aggregatibacter (formerly Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans Y4 contains an operon for a genotoxin known as the cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt). The cdt locus in strain Y4 is flanked by remnants of heterologous plasmid and integrase sequences. In this study, the DNA sequence immediately downstream from the cdt locus on the Y4 chromosome was examined. The extended sequence contained a region that had all the characteristics of a typical bacterial pathogenicity or genomic island. The genomic island (GIY4-1) was approximately 22 kb long, was flanked by a bacteriophage attachment (att) sequence and contained a full-length integrase/resolvase gene (xerD). A total of 22 complete and partial ORFs represented putative DNA replication/DNA binding/conjugation proteins as well as hypothetical proteins. GIY4-1 was most closely related to putative genomic islands in Haemophilus ducreyi 35000HP and Haemophilus influenzae 86-028NP and to a chromosomal region in Haemophilus somnus 129PT. GIY4-1 was not present in HK1651, which was used as the prototype strain for genomic sequencing of A. actinomycetemcomitans. Several sequences in GIY4-1 were homologous to ORFs found on the A. actinomycetemcomitans plasmid pVT745. None of the identified ORFs in GIY4-1 appeared to encode potential virulence genes. However, several unique observations supported the possibility that the cdt locus of A. actinomycetemcomitans Y4 was originally contained within the genomic island.
PMCID: PMC2717017  PMID: 17965355
19.  Anti-leukemia activity of a bacterial toxin with natural specificity for LFA-1 on white blood cells 
Leukemia research  2009;34(6):777-785.
The oral bacterium, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, produces a leukotoxin (LtxA) that is specific for white blood cells (WBCs) from humans and Old World primates by interacting with lymphocyte function antigen-1 (LFA-1) on susceptible cells. To determine if LtxA could be used as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of WBC diseases, we tested the in vitro and in vivo anti-leukemia activity of the toxin. LtxA kills human malignant WBC lines and primary leukemia cells from acute myeloid leukemia patients, but healthy peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) are relatively resistant to LtxA-mediated cytotoxicity. Levels of LFA-1 on cell lines correlated with killing by LtxA and the toxin preferentially killed cells expressing the activated form of LFA-1. In a SCID mouse model for human leukemia, LtxA had potent therapeutic value resulting in long-term survival in LtxA-treated mice. Intravenous infusion of LtxA into a rhesus macaque resulted in a drop in WBC counts at early times post-infusion; however, red blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin and blood chemistry values remained unaffected. Thus, LtxA may be an effective and safe novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of hematologic malignancies.
PMCID: PMC2859097  PMID: 19747730
Acute myeloid leukemia; lymphoma; immunotoxin; targeted therapy
20.  Distribution of biotypes and leukotoxic activity of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans isolated from Brazilian patients with chronic periodontitis 
Brazilian Journal of Microbiology  2008;39(4):658-663.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is an important etiologic agent of the periodontitis and is associated with extra-oral infections. In this study, the detection of the ltxA gene as well as the ltx promoter region from leukotoxic A. actinomycetemcomitans isolated from 50 Brazilian patients with periodontitis and 50 healthy subjects was performed. The leukotoxic activity on HL-60 cells was also evaluated. Leukotoxic activity was determined using a trypan blue exclusion method. The 530 bp deletion in the promoter region was evaluated by PCR using a PRO primer pair. A. actinomycetemcomitans was detected by culture and directly from crude subgingival biofilm by PCR using specific primers. By culture, A. actinomycetemcomitans was detected in nine (18%) of the periodontal patients and one (2%) healthy subject. However, by PCR, this organism was detected in 44% of the periodontal patients and in 16% of the healthy subjects. It was verified a great discrepancy between PCR detection of the ltx operon promoter directly from crude subgingival biofilm and from bacterial DNA. Only one periodontal sample harbored highly leukotoxic A. actinomycetemcomitans. Moreover, biotype II was the most prevalent and no correlation between biotypes and leukotoxic activity was observed. The diversity of leukotoxin expression by A. actinomycetemcomitans suggests a role of this toxin in the pathogenesis of periodontal disease and other infectious diseases.
PMCID: PMC3768452  PMID: 24031284
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans; biotype; leukotoxin; periodontitis
21.  Cytolethal Distending Toxin from Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans Induces DNA Damage, S/G2 Cell Cycle Arrest, and Caspase- Independent Death in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae Model▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;78(2):783-792.
Cytolethal distending toxin (CDT) is a bacterial toxin that induces G2/M cell cycle arrest, cell distension, and/or apoptosis in mammalian cells. It is produced by several Gram-negative species and may contribute to their pathogenicity. The catalytic subunit CdtB has homology with DNase I and may act as a genotoxin. However, the mechanism by which CdtB leads to cell death is not yet clearly understood. Here, we used Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model to study the molecular pathways involved in the function of CdtB from Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a cause of aggressive periodontitis. We show that A. actinomycetemcomitans CdtB (AaCdtB) expression induces S/G2 arrest and death in a DNase-catalytic residue and nuclear localization-dependent manner in haploid yeasts. Yeast strains defective in homologous recombination (HR) repair, but not other DNA repair pathways, are hypersensitive to AaCdtB, suggesting that HR is required for survival upon CdtB expression. In addition, yeast does not harbor the substrate for the other activity proposed for CdtB function, which is phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-triphosphate phosphatase. Thus, these results suggest that direct DNA-damaging activity alone is sufficient for CdtB toxicity. To investigate how CdtB induces cell death, we examined the effect of CdtB in yeast strains with mutations in apoptotic regulators. Our results suggest that yeast death occurs independently of the yeast metacaspase gene YCA1 and the apoptosis-inducing factor AIF1 but is partially dependent on histone H2B serine 10 phosphorylation. Therefore, we report here the evidence that AaCdtB causes DNA damage that leads to nonapoptotic death in yeast and the first mutation that confers resistance to CdtB.
PMCID: PMC2812194  PMID: 19995894
22.  Role of Aromatic Amino Acids in Receptor Binding Activity and Subunit Assembly of the Cytolethal Distending Toxin of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(7):2812-2821.
The periodontal pathogen Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans produces a cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt) that inhibits the proliferation of oral epithelial cells. Structural models suggest that the CdtA and CdtC subunits of the Cdt heterotrimer form two putative lectin domains with a central groove. A region of CdtA rich in heterocyclic amino acids (aromatic patch) appears to play an important role in receptor recognition. In this study site-specific mutagenesis was used to assess the contributions of aromatic amino acids (tyrosine and phenylalanine) to receptor binding and CdtA-CdtC assembly. Predominant surface-exposed aromatic residues that are adjacent to the aromatic patch region in CdtA or are near the groove located at the junction of CdtA and CdtC were studied. Separately replacing residues Y105, Y140, Y188, and Y189 with alanine in CdtA resulted in differential effects on binding related to residue position within the aromatic region. The data indicate that an extensive receptor binding domain extends from the groove across the entire face of CdtA that is oriented 180° from the CdtB subunit. Replacement of residue Y105 in CdtA and residues Y61 and F141 in CdtC, which are located in or at the periphery of the groove, inhibited toxin assembly. Taken together, these results, along with the lack of an aromatic amino acid-rich region in CdtC similar to that in CdtA, suggest that binding of the heterotoxin to its cell surface receptor is mediated predominantly by the CdtA subunit. These findings are important for developing strategies designed to block the activity of this prominent virulence factor.
PMCID: PMC2446717  PMID: 18426882
23.  A New Functional Site W115 in CdtA Is Critical for Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans Cytolethal Distending Toxin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65729.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a specific pathogen of localized aggressive periodontitis, produces a cytolethal distending toxin (CDT) that arrests eukaryotic cells irreversibly in G0/G1 or G2/M phase of the cell cycle. Although structural studies show that the aromatic patch region of CdtA plays an important role in its biological activity, the functional sites of CdtA have not been firmly established. In this study, site-specific mutagenesis strategy was employed for cdtA point mutations construction so as to examine the contributions of individual amino acids to receptor binding and the biological activity of holotoxin. The binding ability was reduced in CdtAY181ABC holotoxin and the biological function of CDT was not weaken in CdtAY105ABC, CdtAY125ABC, CdtAF109ABC and CdtAS106NBC holotoxin suggesting that these sites were not critical to CDT. But the binding activity and cell cycle arrest ability of holotoxin complexes were inhibited in CdtAW115GBC. And this site did not affect the holotoxin assembly by size exclusion chromatography. Therefore, W115 might be a critical site of CdtA binding ability. These findings suggest that the functional sites of CdtA are not only in the aromatic patch region. W115, the new functional site is critical for receptor binding and cell cycle arrest, which provides potential targets for pharmacological disruption of CDT activity.
PMCID: PMC3670888  PMID: 23755273
24.  Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans leukotoxin is post-translationally modified by addition of either saturated or hydroxylated fatty acyl chains 
Molecular Oral Microbiology  2011;26(4):262-276.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a common inhabitant of the human upper aerodigestive tract, produces a repeat in toxin (RTX), leukotoxin (LtxA). The LtxA is transcribed as a 114-kDa inactive protoxin with activation being achieved by attachment of short chain fatty acyl groups to internal lysine residues. Methyl esters of LtxA that were isolated from A. actinomycetemcomitans strains JP2 and HK1651 and subjected to gas chromatography/mass spectrometry contained palmitoyl (C16:0, 27–29%) and palmitolyl (C16:1 cis Δ9, 43–44%) fatty acyl groups with smaller quantities of myristic (C14:0, 14%) and stearic (C18:0, 12–14%) fatty acids. Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry of tryptic peptides from acylated and unacylated recombinant LtxA confirmed that Lys562 and Lys687 are the sites of acyl group attachment. During analysis of recombinant LtxA peptides, we observed peptide spectra that were not observed as part of the RTX acylation schemes of either Escherichia coli α-hemolysin or Bordetella pertussis cyclolysin. Mass calculations of these spectra suggested that LtxA was also modified by the addition of monohydroxylated forms of C14 and C16 acyl groups. Multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry identified hydroxymyristic and hydroxypalmitic acids in wild-type LtxA methyl esters. Single or tandem replacement of Lys562 and Lys687 with Arg blocks acylation, resulting in a >75% decrease in cytotoxicity when compared with wild-type toxin, suggesting that these posttranslational modifications are playing a critical role in LtxA-mediated target cell cytotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3404814  PMID: 21729247
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans; RTX toxins; leukotoxin; acylation; post-translational protein modification; gas chromatography/mass spectrometry; reverse-phase liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry
25.  Cellular and molecular response of human macrophages exposed to Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans leukotoxin 
Cell Death & Disease  2011;2(3):e126-.
Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans is a facultative anaerobic gram-negative bacterium associated with severe forms of periodontitis. A leukotoxin, which belongs to the repeats-in-toxin family, is believed to be one of its virulence factors and to have an important role in the bacterium's pathogenicity. This toxin selectively kills human leukocytes by inducing apoptosis and lysis. Here, we report that leukotoxin-induced cell death of macrophages proceeded through a process that differs from the classical characteristics of apoptosis and necrosis. A. actinomycetemcomitans leukotoxin-induced several cellular and molecular mechanisms in human macrophages that led to a specific and excessive pro-inflammatory response with particular secretion of both interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-18. In addition, this pro-inflammatory cell death was inhibited by oxidized ATP, which indicates involvement of the purinergic receptor P2X7 in this process. This novel virulence mechanism of the leukotoxin may have an important role in the pathogenic potential of this bacterium and can be a target for future therapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC3101819  PMID: 21390060
A. actinomycetemcomitans; leukotoxin; macrophages; pro-inflammatory response; P2X7 receptor

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