Infection and immunity

Role of the Agr-like quorum-sensing system in regulating toxin production by Clostridium perfringens type B strains CN1793 and CN1795.

PMID 22689820


Clostridium perfringens type B causes enteritis and enterotoxemia in domestic animals. By definition, these bacteria must produce alpha toxin (CPA), beta toxin (CPB) and epsilon toxin (ETX) although most type B strains also produce perfringolysin O (PFO) and beta2 toxin (CPB2). A recently identified Agr-like quorum-sensing (QS) system in C. perfringens controls all toxin production by surveyed type A, C, and D strains, but whether this QS is involved in regulating toxin production by type B strains has not been explored. Therefore, the current study introduced agrB null mutations into type B strains CN1795 and CN1793. Both type B agrB null mutants exhibited reduced levels of CPB, PFO, and CPA in their culture supernatants, and this effect was reversible by complementation. The reduced presence of CPB in culture supernatant involved decreased cpb transcription. In contrast, the agrB null mutants of both type B strains retained wild-type production levels of ETX and CPB2. In a Caco-2 cell model of enteritis, culture supernatants of the type B agrB null mutants were less cytotoxic than supernatants of their wild-type parents. However, in an MDCK cell in vitro model for enterotoxemic effects, supernatants from the agrB null mutants or wild-type parents were equally cytotoxic after trypsin activation. Coupling these and previous results, it is now evident that strain-dependent variations exist in Agr-like QS system regulation of C. perfringens toxin production. The cell culture results further support a role for trypsin in determining which toxins contribute to disease involving type B strains.