Staphylococcus aureus produces a set of proteins (e.g., staphylococcal enterotoxin A [SEA], SEB, toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 [TSST-1]) which act both as superantigens (SAgs) and toxins. Although their mode of action as SAgs is well understood, little is known about how they enter the body via the intestine and cause food poisoning. To examine this problem we used an in vitro culture system to study the capacity of class II MHC-negative human intestinal epithelial cells (Caco-2) to transcytose several staphylococcal toxins. We found that Caco-2 cells are capable of dose-dependent, facilitated transcytosis of SEB and TSST-1, but not SEA. We extended these studies in vivo in mice by showing that ingested SEB appears in the blood more efficiently than SEA. Our data suggest that these toxins can cross the epithelium in an immunologically intact form. These results may have important implications for the pathogenesis of food poisoning.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy