Characterization of the synergistic interaction of Escherichia coli heat-stable toxin and carbachol

S. A. Levine, M. Donowitz, A. J.M. Watson, G. W.G. Sharp, J. K. Crane, C. S. Weikel

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STa, the heat-stable enterotoxin of Escherichia coli, is a specific activator of membrane-bound guanylyl cyclase and stimulates secretion of Cl- in a human colonic carcinoma cell line (T84). We investigated the effect of the cholinergic agent carbachol on the secretory response to STa. T84 cell monolayers were studied under voltage-clamped conditions in modified Ussing chambers. Simultaneous addition of STa and carbachol resulted in a biphasic synergistic response characterized by a brief peak in short-circuit current (I(sc)) followed by a prolonged plateau phase lasting up to 90 min. A synergistic response was also seen with sequential addition of the agonists, and was altered by the order and timing of agonist addition. Pretreatment with STa enhanced the synergistic response to carbachol, while the reverse order of additions produced synergy only when STa was added during or immediately after the I(sc) response to carbachol. Synergy occurred only with a concentration of STa sufficient to produce an I(sc) response alone. However, a concentration of carbachol that caused neither an increase in I(sc) nor intracellular Ca2+ mobilization was sufficient to evoke a synergistic response. Addition of 8-bromoguanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate also produced a synergistic I(sc) response with carbachol, although maximal synergism was seen with simultaneous addition. Augmentation of the intracellular Ca2+ response to carbachol by STa is not the mechanism of synergy. Although the mechanism of synergy is not understood, these studies suggest that STa-induced cGMP interacts with other second messengers to produce the synergistic response, and that multiple intracellular mediators may influence the ability of STa to cause disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G592-G601
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4 24-4
StatePublished - 1991


  • electrolyte secretion
  • guanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate
  • intestinal epithelial cell
  • transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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