NanI Sialidase Enhances the Action of Clostridium perfringens Enterotoxin in the Presence of Mucus

Mauricio A. Navarro, Jihong Li, Juliann Beingesser, Bruce A. McClane, Francisco A. Uzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) is the main virulence factor for C. perfringens type F strains to cause human gastrointestinal diseases, which can involve lethal enterotoxemia. During type F disease, CPE encounters an adherent mucus layer overlying the intestines, so the current study evaluated if NanI potentiates CPE activity in the presence of adherent mucus. CPE alone caused more cytotoxicity transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) and permeability to fluorescent dextran (FD) for minimal mucus-producing HT29 cells versus that in their derivative HT29-MTX-E12 cells, which produce abundant adherent mucus. However, for HT29-MTX-E12 cells, the presence of NanI significantly increased CPE binding and pore formation, which enhanced their sensitivity to CPE effects on cytotoxicity, TEER, and FD permeability. When the ability of NanI to potentiate CPE-induced enterotoxemia was then tested in a mouse small intestinal loop enterotoxemia model, a pathophysiologically relevant 50 mg/mL dose of CPE did not kill mice. However, the copresence of purified NanI resulted in significant CPE-induced lethality. More CPE was detected in the sera of mice challenged with 50 mg/mL of CPE when NanI was copresent during challenge. The copresence of NanI and CPE during challenge also significantly increased intestinal histologic damage compared to that after challenge with CPE alone, suggesting that NanI enhancement of CPE-induced intestinal damage may increase CPE absorption into blood. Overall, these results indicate that (i) mucus inhibits CPE action and (ii) NanI can potentiate CPE action in the presence of mucus, which may help explain why type F strains that produce relatively low levels of CPE are still pathogenic. IMPORTANCE NanI is a sialidase produced by some Clostridium perfringens type F strains. Here, we found that NanI can significantly increase the action of C. perfringens enterotoxin (CPE), which is the main toxin responsible for severe human enteric disease caused by type F strains. This effect likely helps to explain why even some type F strains that produce small amounts of CPE are pathogenic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00848-21
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Enterotoxin
  • Mucus
  • NanI sialidase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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