In order to assess the contribution of cytolethal distending toxin (CDT) to the toxigenicity and pathogenicity of Campylobacter jejuni, the C. jejuni 81-176 and C. jejuni NCTC 11168 CDTs were inactivated by insertional mutation of the cdtB toxin subunit. Cell-free sonicates from isogenic C. jejuni 81-176 cdtB- strains were found to be greatly attenuated in HeLa cytotoxicity assays, whilst still retaining some toxigenicity. Sonicates from a C. jejuni NCTC 11168 cdtB- strain produced no detectable cytotoxicity. When orally administered to adult severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice, C. jejuni cdtB mutant strains were unaffected in enteric colonisation abilities but demonstrated impaired invasiveness into blood, spleen and liver tissues. These data suggest that CDT may be the principal toxin produced by this species and that some C. jejuni strains may generate additional toxigenic factor(s) distinct from CDT.
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