The effect of Streptococcus pneumoniae pneumolysin on human respiratory epithelium in vitro

C Feldman, T J Mitchell, P W Andrew, G J Boulnois, R C Read, H C Todd, P J Cole, R Wilson

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72 Citations (Scopus)


Streptococcus pneumoniae culture filtrates and pneumolysin both slow human ciliary beating and damage respiratory epithelium in vitro. A polyclonal pneumolysin antibody bound to sepharose beads removed pneumolysin from culture filtrates and showed that pneumolysin alone was responsible for the effects on epithelium. In a 48-h organ culture pneumolysin caused ciliary slowing and epithelial disruption in a dose-dependent manner down to 5 ng/ml. Comparison of the ciliary slowing activity and pneumolysin concentration in filtrates in a continuous broth culture showed a maximal effect at 16 h (pneumolysin 7.5 micrograms/ml). Later the activity decreased while the pneumolysin concentration increased (8.8 micrograms/ml). This loss of activity was prevented by neutralisation of the acid pH of the culture medium. Eight different culture filtrates produced significant (P less than 0.05) ciliary slowing which correlated (r = 0.95) with simultaneously measured haemolytic (pneumolysin) activity. Substitution of tryptophan (position 433) by phenylalanine reduced the haemolytic and ciliary slowing activity of pneumolysin, but did not affect its ability to activate complement. There was no correlation between the ciliary slowing produced by the culture filtrate and that produced by the autolysate of a particular strain, nor between ciliary slowing and the extent of autolysis or the serotype of the strain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-84
Number of pages10
JournalMicrobial Pathogenesis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1990


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cell Movement
  • Culture Media
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epithelium
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Humans
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Nasal Mucosa
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Streptolysins


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