Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin elicits rapid and specific cytolysis of breast carcinoma cells mediated through tight junction proteins claudin 3 and 4

Am J Pathol. 2004 May;164(5):1627-33. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63721-2.


Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) induces cytolysis very rapidly through binding to its receptors, the tight junction proteins CLDN 3 and 4. In this study, we investigated CLDN 3 and 4 expression in breast cancer and tested the potential of CPE-mediated therapy. CLDN 3 and 4 proteins were detected in all primary breast carcinomas tested (n = 21) and, compared to normal mammary epithelium, were overexpressed in approximately 62% and 26%, respectively. Treatment of breast cancer cell lines in culture with CPE resulted in rapid and dose-dependent cytolysis exclusively in cells that expressed CLDN 3 and 4. Intratumoral CPE treatment of xenografts of T47D breast cancer cells in immunodeficient mice resulted in a significant reduction in tumor volume (P = 0.007), with accompanying necrosis. Necrotic reactions were also seen in three freshly resected primary breast carcinoma samples treated with CPE for 12 hours, while isolated primary breast carcinoma cells underwent rapid and complete cytolysis within 1 hour. Thus, expression of CLDN 3 and 4 sensitizes primary breast carcinomas to CPE-mediated cytolysis and emphasizes the potential of CPE in breast cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Claudin-3
  • Claudin-4
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enterotoxins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Necrosis
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • CLDN3 protein, human
  • CLDN4 protein, human
  • Claudin-3
  • Claudin-4
  • Cldn3 protein, mouse
  • Cldn4 protein, mouse
  • Enterotoxins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • enterotoxin, Clostridium