Leukotoxin from Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans causes shrinkage and P2X receptor-dependent lysis of human erythrocytes


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Leukotoxin (LtxA) is a virulence factor secreted by the bacterium Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, which can cause localized aggressive periodontitis and endocarditis. LtxA belongs to the repeat-in-toxin (RTX) family of exotoxins of which other members inflict lysis by formation of membrane pores. Recently, we documented that the haemolytic process induced by another RTX toxin [α-haemolysin (HlyA) from Escherichia coli] requires P2X receptor activation and consists of sequential cell shrinkage and swelling. In contrast, the cellular and molecular mechanisms of LtxA-mediated haemolysis are not fully understood. Here, we investigate the effect of LtxA on erythrocyte volume and whether P2 receptors also play a part in LtxA-mediated haemolysis. We observed that LtxA initially decreases the cell size, followed by a gradual rise in volume until the cell finally lyses. Moreover, LtxA triggers phosphatidylserine (PS) exposure in the erythrocyte membrane and both the shrinkage and the PS-exposure is preceded by increments in the intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i). Interestingly, LtxA-mediated haemolysis is significantly potentiated by ATP release and P2X receptor activation in human erythrocytes. Furthermore, the LtxA-induced [Ca2+]i increase and following volume changes partially depend on P2 receptor activation. Theseobservations imply that intervention against local P2-mediated auto- and paracrine signalling may prevent LtxA-mediated cell damage.