Background and Aims: Enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis has been associated with diarrheal disease, and the enterotoxin has a cytopathic effect on cultured HT-29 enterocytes. Experiments were designed to determine the effect of B. fragilis enterotoxin on bacteria-enterocyte interactions. Methods: Confluent HT-29 enterocytes were incubated for 1 hour with B. fragilis enterotoxin, followed by 1 hour of incubation with pure cultures of enteric bacteria, namely, Salmonella typhimurium (two strains), Listeria monocytogenes (three strains), Proteus mirabilis, Escherichia coli (three strains), and Enterococcus faecalis. Enterocyte viability was assessed using vital dyes, epithelial permeability was measured using transepithelial electrical resistance, enterocyte morphology and bacteria-enterocyte interactions were visualized using light and electron microscopy, and bacterial internalization was assessed using a quantitative culture of lysed enterocytes. Results: B. fragilis enterotoxin did not affect enterocyte viability but decreased transepithelial electrical resistance, and individual enterocytes pulled apart. Enterotoxin pretreatment decreased internalization of L. monocytogenes (P < 0.01) but increased (P < 0.01) internalization of the other strains of enteric bacteria. Augmented bacterial internalization was associated with preferential bacterial adherence on the exposed lateral surface of enterotoxin-treated enterocytes. Conclusions: B. fragilis enterotoxin was associated with HT-29 cell rounding and with augmented internalization of selected strains of enteric bacteria that were preferentially adherent on the exposed enterocyte lateral surface.
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