The association of shiga toxin and other cytotoxins with the neurologic manifestations of shigellosis

Shai Ashkenazi, Karen R. Cleary, Larry K. Pickering, Barbara E. Murray, Thomas G. Cleary

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49 Scopus citations


The neurologic symptoms in human shigellosis have often been attributed to Shiga toxin, although its exact role has not been determined. By use of a [3H] thymidine-labeled HeLa cell assay, cytotoxic activity was demonstrated in stool but not cerebrospinal fluid or serum from five patients with shigellosis presenting with seizures or encephalopathy. Bacterial isolates produced 16.0-88.2 CD50 (50% cytotoxic dose) of cytotoxin/mg of protein. The toxin activity in stool and the cytotoxic activity of the isolates were not neutralized by antiserum to purified Shiga toxin. DNA hybridization studies showed that Shigella isolates from these patients lacked the structural genes for Shiga toxin. The cytotoxin produced was also distinct from Shiga-like toxins I and II. Sonicates of the Shigella strains injected intraperitoneally into mice caused lethargy and lethality. The toxin activity was heat-labile and sensitive to trypsin, indicating that its active component is protein. Ultrafiltration and gel filtration chromatography showed a molecular mass of 100-125kDa. Thus Shiga toxin production is not essential for the development of neurologic manifestations of shigellosis; other toxic products may play a role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-965
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1990
Externally publishedYes


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