Human colonic epithelial cells, HT29/C1, treated with crude Bacteroides fragilis enterotoxin dramatically alter their morphology

C. S. Weikel, F. D. Grieco, J. Reuben, L. L. Myers, R. B. Sack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacteroides fragilis has been associated with causation of diarrheal disease in livestock and humans. To date, conventional tissue culture and animal assays used to detect the biologic activity of bacterial enterotoxins have failed with enterotoxigenic B. fragilis. Although enterotoxigenic B. fragilis stimulates intestinal secretion in lamb and calf ligated intestinal loops, infant rabbits, and adult rabbits with ligated ceca, these animal systems are costly and complicated, which limits their usefulness for identification of enterotoxigenic B. fragilis strains. Using the cloned human colonic-epithelial-cell line HT29/C1, we have developed an in vitro assay that is 89% sensitive and 100% specific in detecting enterotoxigenic B. fragilis strains as defined by the lamb ligated-intestinal-loop assay. Subconfluent HT29/C1 cells treated with concentrated bacterium-free culture supernatants of enterotoxigenic B. fragilis strains develop specific and striking morphologic changes including loss of cell-to-cell attachments, rounding, swelling, and, in some cases, pyknosis. These morphologic changes are initially visible at 1 h after treatment and progress over at least the first 24 h. This tissue culture assay should prove useful in epidemiologic studies of enterotoxigenic B. fragilis and may facilitate basic studies to identify the B. fragilis toxin(s) and its mechanism of action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-327
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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