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INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, JUlY 1986, p. 135-140; DOI: 0019-9567/86/070135-06$02.00/0


Escherichia coli 0157:H7 strain 933 contains two distinct toxin-converting phages (933J and 933W). The biologic activities and antigenic relationship between the toxins produced by 933J and 933W lysogens of E. coli K-12, as well as the homology of the genes that encode the two toxins, were examined in this study. The 933J and 933W toxins, like Shiga toxin produced by Shigella dysenteriae type 1, were cytotoxic for the same cell lines, caused paralysis and death in mice, and caused fluid accumulation in rabbit ileal segments. The cytotoxic activity of 933J toxin for HeLa cells was neutralized by anti-Shiga toxin, whereas the activity of 933W toxin was not neutralized by this antiserum. In contrast, an antiserum prepared against E. coli K-12(933W) neutralized 933W toxin but not 933J toxin or Shiga toxin. For E. coli 933, most of the cell-associated cytotoxin was neutralized by anti-Shiga toxin, whereas most of the extracellular cytotoxin was neutralized by anti-933W toxin. However, a mixture of these antisera indicated the presence of both toxins in cell lysates and culture supernatants. Among 50 elevated cytotoxin-producing strains of E. coli, we identified 11 strains isolated from cases of diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, or hemolytic uremic syndrome that produced cell-associated cytotoxins which were neutralized by the 933W antitoxin. Southern hybridization studies showed that the cloned toxin structural genes from phage 933J hybridized with DNA from phage 933W under conditions estimated to allow no more than 26% base-pair mismatch. These findings indicate that E. coli produces two genetically related but antigenically distinct cytotoxins with similar biologic activities which we propose to name Shiga-like toxins I and II. Strains of E. coli that produce elevated levels of Shiga-like toxin I or Shiga-like toxin II, or both, have been associated with the clinical syndromes of diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome.

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