A new role for heat shock factor 27 in the pathophysiology of Clostridium difficile toxin B

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Clostridiumdifficile (CD) is a common pathogen that causes severe gastrointestinal inflammatory diarrhea in patients undergoing antibiotic therapy. Its virulence derives from two toxins, toxin CD, A and B (TcdA and TcdB) (Borriello et al. Rev Infect Dis 12, Suppl 2: S185-191, 1990). Among the prime candidates for CD colonization are patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), who are routinely treated with antibiotics and frequently hospitalized. Indeed, ~50% of patients with CF are colonized with virulent forms of CD but do not exhibit diarrhea (Bauer et al. Clin Microbiol Infect 20: O446-O449, 2014; Binkovitz et al. Am J Roentgenol 172: 517-521, 199; Zemljic et al. Anaerobe 16: 527-532, 2010). We found that TcdB has global effects on colonic cells, including reducing the steady-state levels of sodium-proton exchange regulatory factors, reducing the levels of heat shock protein (Hsp) 27, and increasing the fraction of total Hsp27 bound to the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). Also, since some mutations in CFTR seem to be protective, we asked whether CFTR is a target of TcdB. We show here that TcdB increases the maturation of CFTR and transiently increases its function. These combined effects promote increased surface expression of CFTR, resulting in a transient increase in Cl- secretion. This increase is followed by a precipitous decline in both CFTR-dependent Cl- secretion and transepithelial resistance (TER), suggesting a breakdown in the epithelial cells' tight junctions. We also found that overexpressing Hsp27 reverses some of the deleterious effects of TcdB, in particular preserving TER and therefore likely the maintenance of barrier function. Thus, our data suggest that Hsp27 plays a role in the diarrhea generated by CD infection and is a potential therapeutic target for treating this diarrhea.NEW & NOTEWORTHYClostridium difficile (CD) is a common pathogen that causes severe gastrointestinal inflammatory diarrhea in patients undergoing antibiotic therapy. We provide new evidence that heat shock protein (Hsp) 27 is one of the key players in CD pathology and that increasing Hsp27 can prevent the decrease in transepithelial resistance induced by toxin CD B, pointing the way for pharmacologic therapies for patients with chronic CD infection that can increase Hsp27 as a means to mitigate the effects of CD on gastrointestinal pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G120-G129
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020



  • barrier function
  • chaperone
  • cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)

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