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Concept: Exotoxin


Excessive weight and obesity are associated with the development of diabetes mellitus type 2 (DMII) in humans. They also pose high risks of Staphylococcus aureus colonization and overt infections. S. aureus causes a wide range of severe illnesses in both healthy and immunocompromised individuals. Among S. aureus virulence factors, superantigens are essential for pathogenicity. In this study, we show that rabbits that are chronically exposed to S. aureus superantigen toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1) experience impaired glucose tolerance, systemic inflammation, and elevated endotoxin levels in the bloodstream, all of which are common findings in DMII. Additionally, such DMII-associated findings are also seen through effects of TSST-1 on isolated adipocytes. Collectively, our findings suggest that chronic exposure to S. aureus superantigens facilitates the development of DMII, which may lead to therapeutic targeting of S. aureus and its superantigens.

Concepts: Immune system, Nutrition, Diabetes mellitus, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Glucose tolerance test, Toxic shock syndrome, Exotoxin


The study aimed to report 2 cases of desquamative inflammatory vaginitis associated with toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 (TSST-1)-producing Staphylococcus aureus strains.

Concepts: Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Syndromes, Clindamycin, Toxic shock syndrome, Exotoxin, Necrotizing fasciitis, Menstrual cup


Method of highly sensitive registration of magnetic nanoparticles by their non-linear magnetization is used in a novel sandwich-type immunoassay for detection of staphylococcal toxins in complex media of virtually any volume, with increasing sensitivity at higher sample volume. The signal is read out from the entire volume of a non-transparent 3D fiber structure employed as a solid phase, which provides large reaction surface, quick reagent mixing as well as antigen immunofiltration directly in the course of the assay. The method has demonstrated near-linear dose-response curves within wide range of ~3 decades while detection of staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA) and toxic shock syndrome toxin (TSST) in neat milk without sample preparation. The limits of detection (LOD) as low as 4 and 10 pg/mL for TSST and SEA, respectively, were obtained in 2-hour format using 30-mL samples. The second, 25-minute format, showed the LOD of 0.1 and 0.3 ng/mL for the same toxins in a 150 µL sample. The developed immunoassay can be applied in food safety control, in vitro diagnostics and veterinary for a variety of research from express tests in the field to highly sensitive laboratory tests.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, ELISA, Toxic shock syndrome, Exotoxin, Necrotizing fasciitis, Magnetic immunoassay


Protein toxins, such as botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), Clostridium perfringens epsilon toxin (ETX), staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB), shiga toxin (STX), and plant toxin ricin, are involved in a number of diseases and are considered as potential agents for bioterrorism and warfare. From a bioterrorism and warfare perspective, these agents are likely to cause maximum damage to a civilian or military population through an inhalational route of exposure and aerosol is considered the envisaged mode of delivery. Unambiguous detection of toxin from aerosol is of paramount importance, both for bringing mitigation protocols into operation and for implementation of effective medical countermeasures, in case a “biological cloud” is seen over a population. A multiplex, unambiguous, and qualitative detection of protein toxins is reported here using tandem mass spectrometry with MALDI-TOF-TOF. The methodology involving simple sample processing steps was demonstrated to identify toxins (ETX, Clostridium perfringes phospholipase C, and SEB) from blind spiked samples. The novel directed search approach using a list of unique peptides was used to identify toxins from a complex protein mixture. The bioinformatic analysis of seven protein toxins for elucidation of unique peptides with conservation status across all known sequences provides a high confidence for detecting toxins originating from any geographical location and source organism. Use of tandem MS data with peptide sequence information increases the specificity of the method. A prototype for generation of aerosol using a nebulizer and collection using a cyclone collector was used to provide a proof of concept for unambiguous detection of toxin from aerosol using precursor directed tandem mass spectrometry combined with protein database searching. ETX prototoxin could be detected from aerosol at 0.2 ppb concentration in aerosol.

Concepts: Protein, Mass spectrometry, Peptide, Exotoxin, Toxin, Tandem mass spectrometry, Clostridium perfringens, Microbial toxins


Fifteen currently marketed intravaginal protection products (11 types of tampon and four menstrual cups) were tested by the modified tampon sac method to determine their effect on Staphylococcus aureus growth and toxic shock toxin 1 (TSST-1) production. Most tampons reduced S. aureus growth and TSST-1 production, with differences based on brand and composition, and S. aureus growth was higher in de-structured than in unaltered tampons. We observed higher S. aureus growth and toxin production in menstrual cups than in tampons, potentially due to the additional air introduced to the bag by cups, with differences based on cup composition and size.Importance Menstrual toxic shock syndrome is a rare but severe disease. It occurs in healthy women vaginally colonized by Staphylococcus aureus producing toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 using intravaginal protection such as tampons or menstrual cups. Intravaginal protection induces TSS production by collecting catamenial products which act as a growth medium for S. aureus Previous studies have evaluated the impact of tampon composition on S. aureus producing toxic shock syndrome toxin 1, but they are not recent and did not include menstrual cups. This study demonstrates that highly reproducible results for S. aureus growth and TSST-1 production can be obtained using a simple protocol that reproduces the physiological conditions of tampon and cup usage as closely as possible, providing recommendations for tampon or cup use to both manufacturers and consumers. Notably, our results do not show that menstrual cups are safer than tampons and suggest that they require similar precautions.

Concepts: Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus, Clindamycin, Toxic shock syndrome, Exotoxin, Menstruation, Menstrual cup


The Staphylococcus aureus ClpXP protease is an important regulator of cell homeostasis and virulence. Here we utilize a high-throughput screen against the ClpXP complex and identify a specific inhibitor of the ClpX chaperone that disrupts its oligomeric state. Synthesis of 34 derivatives revealed that the molecular scaffold is restrictive for diversification with only minor changes tolerated. Subsequent analysis of the most active compound revealed strong attenuation of S. aureus toxin production which was quantified via a customized MS-based assay platform. Transcriptome and whole proteome studies further confirmed the global reduction of virulence and unraveled characteristic signatures of protein expression in compound treated cells. Although these partially matched the pattern of ClpX knockout cells, further depletion of toxins was observed leading to the intriguing perspective that additional virulence pathways may be directly or indirectly addressed by the small molecule.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene expression, Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Molecule, Exotoxin, Toxin


Many pathogens secrete toxins that target key host processes resulting in the activation of immune pathways. The secreted Pseudomonas aeruginosa toxin Exotoxin A (ToxA) disrupts intestinal protein synthesis, which triggers the induction of a subset of P. aeruginosa-response genes in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cell, Bacteria, Virus, RNA, Caenorhabditis elegans, Exotoxin


Temperate phage encoded Shiga toxin (Stx) kills the bacterivorous predator, Tetrahymena thermophila, providing Stx+ Escherichia coli with a survival advantage over Stx- cells. Although bacterial death accompanies Stx release, since bacteria grow clonally the fitness benefits of predator killing accrue to the kin of the sacrificed organism, meaning Stx-mediated protist killing is a form of self-destructive cooperation. We show here that the fitness benefits of Stx production are not restricted to the kin of the phage-encoding bacteria. Instead, nearby “free loading” bacteria, irrespective of their genotype, also reap the benefit of Stx-mediated predator killing. This finding indicates that the phage-borne Stx exotoxin behaves as a public good. Stx is encoded by a mobile phage. We find that Stx-encoding phage can use susceptible bacteria in the population as surrogates to enhance toxin and phage production. Moreover, our findings also demonstrate that engulfment and concentration of Stx-encoding and susceptible Stx- bacteria in the Tetrahymena phagosome enhances the transfer of Stx-encoding temperate phage from the host to the susceptible bacteria. This transfer increases the population of cooperating bacteria within the community. Since these bacteria now encode Stx, the predation-stimulated increase in phage transfer increases the population of toxin encoding bacteria in the environment.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Evolution, Escherichia coli, Bacteriophage, Exotoxin, Shiga toxin


Staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome (TSS) was originally described in menstruating women and linked to TSS toxin 1 (TSST-1)-producing Staphylococcus aureus. Using UK national surveillance data, we ascertained clinical, molecular and superantigenic characteristics of TSS cases. Average annual TSS incidence was 0.07/100,000 population. Patients with nonmenstrual TSS were younger than those with menstrual TSS but had the same mortality rate. Children <16 years of age accounted for 39% of TSS cases, most caused by burns and skin and soft tissue infections. Nonmenstrual TSS is now more common than menstrual TSS in the UK, although both types are strongly associated with the tst+ clonal complex (CC) 30 methicillin-sensitive S. aureus lineage, which accounted for 49.4% of all TSS and produced more TSST-1 and superantigen bioactivity than did tst+ CC30 methicillin-resistant S. aureus strains. Better understanding of this MSSA lineage and infections in children could focus interventions to prevent TSS in the future.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus, United Kingdom, Clindamycin, Toxic shock syndrome, Exotoxin, Coagulase


The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is an important cause of the life-threatening condition toxic shock syndrome in humans. Bacterial toxins known as superantigens (SAgs) generate this illness by acting as broad activators of a substantial fraction of all T lymphocytes, bypassing the normally highly stringent T-cell receptor antigen specificity to cause a systemic inflammatory cytokine storm in the host. In a new study, Shaler et al. found that immune cells called mucosa-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells make an unexpectedly large contribution to the SAg response in a largely T-cell receptor-independent, cytokine-driven manner. Subsequent to such activation, the MAIT cells remain unresponsive to stimulation with bacterial antigen. Thus, S. aureus hijacks MAIT cells in the cytokine storm and leaves them functionally impaired. This work provides new insight into the role of MAIT cells in antibacterial immunity and opens new avenues of investigation to understand and possibly treat bacterial toxic shock and sepsis.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, T cell receptor, Toxic shock syndrome, Exotoxin, Superantigen