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Using phenotype microarrays to determine culture conditions that induce or repress toxin production by Clostridium difficile and other microorganisms

Lei, XH;Bochner, BR;

Toxin production is a central issue in the pathogenesis of Clostridium difficile and many other pathogenic microorganisms. Toxin synthesis is influenced by a variety of known and unknown factors of genetics, physiology, and environment. To facilitate the study of toxin production by C. difficile, we have developed a new, reliable, quantitative, and robust cell-based cytotoxicity assay. Then we combined this new assay with Phenotype MicroArrays (PM) technology which provides high throughput testing of culture conditions. This allowed us to quantitatively measure toxin production by C. difficile type strain ATCC 9689 under 768 culture conditions. The culture conditions include different carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur sources. Among these, 89 conditions produced strong toxin induction and 31 produced strong toxin repression. Strong toxin inducers included adenine, guanosine, arginine dipeptides, -D-Glu-Gly, methylamine, and others. Some leucine dipeptides and the triple-leucine tripeptide were among the strongest toxin repressors. While some results are consistent with previous observations, others are new observations that provide insights into toxin regulation and pathogenesis of C. difficile. Additionally, we have demonstrated that this combined assay technology can be applied broadly to a wide range of toxin producing microorganisms. This study is the first demonstration of simultaneous assessment of a large number of culture conditions influencing bacterial toxin production. The new functional cytotoxin quantitation method developed provides a valuable tool for studying toxigenic microorganisms and may also find applications in clinical and epidemiological research.