The role of pneumolysin in mediating lung damage in a lethal pneumococcal pneumonia murine model

María del Mar García-Suárez, Noelia Flórez, Aurora Astudillo, Fernando Vázquez, Roberto Villaverde, Kevin Fabrizio, Liise Anne Pirofski, Francisco J. Méndez

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54 Scopus citations


Background: Intranasal inoculation of Streptococcus pneumoniae D39 serotype 2 causes fatal pneumonia in mice. The cytotoxic and inflammatory properties of pneumolysin (PLY) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of pneumococcal pneumonia.Methods: To examine the role of PLY in this experimental model we performed ELISA assays for PLY quantification. The distribution patterns of PLY and apoptosis were established by immunohistochemical detection of PLY, caspase-9 activity and TUNEL assay on tissue sections from mice lungs at various times, and the results were quantified with image analysis. Inflammatory and apoptotic cells were also quantified on lung tissue sections from antibody treated mice.Results: In bronchoalveolar lavages (BAL), total PLY was found at sublytic concentrations which were located in alveolar macrophages and leukocytes. The bronchoalveolar epithelium was PLY-positive, while the vascular endothelium was not PLY reactive. The pattern and extension of cellular apoptosis was similar. Anti-PLY antibody treatment decreased the lung damage and the number of apoptotic and inflammatory cells in lung tissues.Conclusion: The data strongly suggest that in vivo lung injury could be due to the pro-apoptotic and pro-inflammatory activity of PLY, rather than its cytotoxic activity. PLY at sublytic concentrations induces lethal inflammation in lung tissues and is involved in host cell apoptosis, whose effects are important to pathogen survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalRespiratory Research
StatePublished - Jan 26 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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