Effects of bacterial toxins on endothelial tight junction in vitro: A mechanism-based investigation

Ashok K Singh, Yin Jiang, Shveta Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and lipoteichoic acid (LTA), principal cell wall components of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, respectively, play a central role in altering the blood-brain barrier and facilitate bacterial infection of the host brain. Despite the significance of bacterial toxins in disease pathogenesis, mechanisms by which toxins impair the barrier are not yet known. This study, using an in vitro cell culture model, showed that LPS and LTA interacted with the endothelial cells and disrupted the tight junction between the cells that increased the barrier's permeability. Both toxins increased inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) mRNA that is indicative of an increase in intracellular NO release, disrupted architecture of the tight junction proteins, suppressed zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) and occludin (OCL) and junctional adhesive molecules (JAM) mRNA levels, and increased tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) mRNA levels. Anti-CD14 antibodies blocked the increase in TNFα and IL-1β mRNA levels but did not affect either changes in the tight junction or iNOS, ZO-1, OCL, and JAM mRNA levels in endothelial cells and astrocytes. Although both toxins did not cross the endothelial barrier, the abluminal neurons exhibited high inflammatory activity characterized by a sequential increase in TNFα, IL-1β, external receptor kinase (ERK), and RelA-p50 that induced inflammation, followed by an increase in anti-inflammatory/apoptotic factors including IL-10 and cysteine-aspartic acid protease-8 (CASPASE-8), which resolve inflammation and induce apoptosis. Anti-CD14 antibodies in luminal buffer blocked the pro- and anti-inflammatory effects of the toxins in neurons. Thus, the CD14-TLR cascade that participates in the inflammatory effects of toxins may not participate in the toxin-induced barrier disruption in vitro. Since the toxins did not cross the endothelial barrier, induction of inflammation in neurons was due to a release of proinflammatory cytokines in the abluminal fluid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-347
Number of pages17
JournalToxicology Mechanisms and Methods
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by grants from the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota and Food Safety grant from the CVM.


  • Apoptosis
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Endothelial Tight Junction
  • Lipopolysaccharide
  • Lipoteichoic Acid
  • NFκB


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