Pneumolysin induces the salient histologic features of pneumococcal infection in the rat lung in vivo

C Feldman, N C Munro, P K Jeffery, T J Mitchell, P W Andrew, G J Boulnois, D Guerreiro, J A Rohde, H C Todd, P J Cole

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82 Citations (Scopus)


Streptococcus pneumoniae infections are common, but how they cause host tissue injury and death is incompletely understood. Immunization with pneumolysin, a thiol-activated toxin produced by the pneumococcus, partially protects animals during subsequent infection. The mechanism by which pneumolysin contributes to disease is not known. The aim of the present investigation was to determine the histologic changes induced by recombinant pneumolysin in the rat lung and to compare them with the changes induced by live organisms. Injection of either toxin (200 or 800 ng) or bacteria into the apical lobe bronchus was associated with the development of a severe lobar pneumonia restricted to the apical lobe. The changes induced by the toxin were greater at the higher concentration, and changes were most severe in those animals in which there was partial ligation of the apical lobe bronchus. The pneumonitis was less severe following injection of a modified toxin with decreased hemolytic activity, generated by site-directed mutagenesis of the cloned pneumolysin gene, indicating that this property of the toxin was important in generating pulmonary inflammation. There was still considerable pneumonitis after injection of a modified toxin with decreased capacity to activate complement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-23
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1991


  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Lung
  • Male
  • Pneumococcal Infections
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • Streptolysins


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