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1.  RTX Toxin Plays a Key Role in Kingella kingae Virulence in an Infant Rat Model 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(6):2318-2328.
Kingella kingae is a human oral bacterium that can cause diseases of the skeletal system in children and infective endocarditis in children and adults. K. kingae produces a toxin of the RTX group, RtxA. To investigate the role of RtxA in disease pathogenesis in vivo, K. kingae strain PYKK081 and its isogenic RtxA-deficient strain KKNB100 were tested for their virulence and pathological consequences upon intraperitoneal injections in 7-day-postnatal (PN 7) rats. At the doses above 8.0 × 106 cells/animal, PYKK081 was able to cause a fatal illness, resulting in rapid weight loss, bacteremia, and abdominal necrotic lesion formation. Significant histopathology was observed in thymus, spleen, and bone marrow. Strain KKNB100 was less toxic to animals. Neither weight loss, bacteremia, nor histopathological changes were evident. Animals injected with KKNB100 exhibited a significantly elevated circulating white blood cell (WBC) count, whereas animals injected with PYKK081 had a WBC count that resembled that of the uninfected control. This observation parallels the subtleties associated with clinical presentation of K. kingae disease in humans and suggests that the toxin contributes to WBC depletion. Thus, our results demonstrate that RtxA is a key K. kingae virulence factor. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the PN 7 rat can serve as a useful model for understanding disease caused by K. kingae and for elucidating diagnostic parameters in human patients.
PMCID: PMC4019167  PMID: 24664507
2.  Characterization of TEM-1 β-Lactamase-Producing Kingella kingae Clinical Isolates 
Kingella kingae is a human pathogen that causes pediatric osteoarticular infections and infective endocarditis in children and adults. The bacterium is usually susceptible to β-lactam antibiotics, although β-lactam resistance has been reported in rare isolates. This study was conducted to identify β-lactam-resistant strains and to characterize the resistance mechanism. Screening of a set of 90 K. kingae clinical isolates obtained from different geographic locations revealed high-level resistance to penicillins among 25% of the strains isolated from Minnesota and Iceland. These strains produced TEM-1 β-lactamase and were shown to contain additional ≥50-kb plasmids. Ion Torrent sequencing of extrachromosomal DNA from a β-lactamase-producing strain confirmed the plasmid location of the blaTEM gene. An identical plasmid pattern was demonstrated by multiplex PCR in all β-lactamase producers. The porin gene's fragments were analyzed to investigate the relatedness of bacterial strains. Phylogenetic analysis revealed 27 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the por gene fragment, resulting in two major clusters with 11 allele types forming bacterial-strain subclusters. β-Lactamase producers were grouped together based on por genotyping. Our results suggest that the β-lactamase-producing strains likely originate from a single plasmid-bearing K. kingae isolate that traveled from Europe to the United States, or vice versa. This study highlights the prevalence of penicillin resistance among K. kingae strains in some regions and emphasizes the importance of surveillance for antibiotic resistance of the pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3754283  PMID: 23796935
3.  Genome Sequence of Kingella kingae Septic Arthritis Isolate PYKK081 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(11):3017.
Kingella kingae is a human oral bacterium that can cause infections of the skeletal system in children. The bacterium is also a cardiovascular pathogen causing infective endocarditis in children and adults. We report herein the draft genome sequence of septic arthritis K. kingae strain PYKK081.
PMCID: PMC3370631  PMID: 22582375
4.  Broad-Spectrum Biofilm Inhibition by Kingella kingae Exopolysaccharide▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(15):3879-3886.
Cell-free extracts prepared from Kingella kingae colony biofilms were found to inhibit biofilm formation by Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Candida albicans, and K. kingae. The extracts evidently inhibited biofilm formation by modifying the physicochemical properties of the cell surface, the biofilm matrix, and the substrate. Chemical and biochemical analyses indicated that the biofilm inhibition activity in the K. kingae extract was due to polysaccharide. Structural analyses showed that the extract contained two major polysaccharides. One was a linear polysaccharide with the structure →6)-α-d-GlcNAcp-(1→5)-β-d-OclAp-(2→, which was identical to a capsular polysaccharide produced by Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae serotype 5. The second was a novel linear polysaccharide, designated PAM galactan, with the structure →3)-β-d-Galf-(1→6)-β-d-Galf-(1→. Purified PAM galactan exhibited broad-spectrum biofilm inhibition activity. A cluster of three K. kingae genes encoding UDP-galactopyranose mutase (ugm) and two putative galactofuranosyl transferases was sufficient for the synthesis of PAM galactan in Escherichia coli. PAM galactan is one of a growing number of bacterial polysaccharides that exhibit antibiofilm activity. The biological roles and potential technological applications of these molecules remain unknown.
PMCID: PMC3147541  PMID: 21602333
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Leukotoxin Confers Beta-Hemolytic Activity to Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(4):2015-2021.
Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans is the etiologic agent of localized aggressive periodontitis, a rapidly progressing oral disease that occurs in adolescents. A. actinomycetemcomitans can also cause systemic disease, including infective endocarditis. In early work on A. actinomycetemcomitans workers concluded that this bacterium is not beta-hemolytic. More recent reports have suggested that A. actinomycetemcomitans does have the potential to be beta-hemolytic. While growing A. actinomycetemcomitans on several types of growth media, we noticed a beta-hemolytic reaction on media from one manufacturer. Beta-hemolysis occurred on Columbia agar from Accumedia with either sheep or horse blood, but not on similar media from other manufacturers. A surprising result was that mutants of A. actinomycetemcomitans defective for production of leukotoxin, a toxin that is reportedly highly specific for only human and primate white blood cells, are not beta-hemolytic. Purified leukotoxin was able to lyse sheep and human erythrocytes in vitro. This work showed that in contrast to the accepted view, A. actinomycetemcomitans leukotoxin can indeed destroy erythrocytes and that the production of this toxin results in beta-hemolytic colonies on solid medium. In light of these results, the diagnostic criteria for clinical identification of A. actinomycetemcomitans and potentially related bacteria should be reevaluated. Furthermore, in studies on A. actinomycetemcomitans leukotoxin workers should now consider this toxin's ability to destroy red blood cells.
PMCID: PMC1418943  PMID: 16552030

Results 1-9 (9)