Molecular approaches to leucotoxin as a virulence component in Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans

J. L. Ebersole, E. Kraig, G. Bauman, J. K. Spitznagel, D. Kolodrubetz

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10 Scopus citations


A strategy has been developed to examine the hypothesis that leucotoxin is a critical virulence factor of Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans in a non-human primate (Macaca fascicularis). Firstly the leucotoxin gene from A. actinomycelemcomitans was cloned and sequenced. This DNA contained a functional leucotoxin gene, as protein extracts of Escherichia coli with the cloned sequences lysed appropriate human cell lines. The protein encoded by lktA shared at least 42% identity with P. haemolytica leucotoxin and with the α-haemolysins from E. coli and A. pleuropneumoniae. The lktA gene of A. actinomycetemcomitans was linked to another gene, lktC, which is thought to be related to the LktC proteins from these other bacteria and with which it shared at least 49% amino acid identity. Despite the overall homology to the other leucotoxins/haemolysins, the LktA from A. actinomycetemcomitans has several unique properties including a very basic pI of 9.7, as compared to pIs approx. 6.2 for lktA proteins in other bacteria. Using the cloned genes as probes produced evidence that a TOX- strain contains the leucotoxin gene but fails to transcribe it at high levels. The second avenue of investigation was to develop methods for examining the humoral immune responses in the monkey to bacterial toxins such as lktA. A. actinomycetemcomitans was detected in subgingival plaque samples from approx. 40% of the animals. A. actinomycetemcomitans comprised less than 1% to 9% of the flora. Most A. actinomycelemcomitans isolates were serotype b and each of the monkeys had serum IgG antibody to A. actinomycetemcomitans serotype b (generally considered to be lktA-producing strains). An ELISA was developed to examine the isotype/subclass distribution, level and avidity of serum antibody in the monkey following parenteral immunization with a prototype bacterial exotoxin (tetanus toxoid). IgG1 and IgG3 antibody predominated over IgG2 and IgG4 after primary immunization. Secondary immunization elicited enriched IgG1 and IgG4 responses. Primary immunization increased avidity indices of IgG to tetanus toxoid from approx. 0.9 (baseline) to a mean of 1.72 and secondary immunization significantly increased the avidity index to 2.56.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S69-S78
JournalArchives of Oral Biology
Issue numberSUPPL.
StatePublished - 1990


  • Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans
  • antibody response
  • leucotoxin
  • non-human primate
  • periodontal disease
  • virulence factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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