Characteristics and mechanism of action of a heat-stable enterotoxin produced by Klebsiella pneumoniae from infants with secretory diarrhea

Pediatr Res. 1989 May;25(5):514-8. doi: 10.1203/00006450-198905000-00018.


Escherichia coli heat-stable enterotoxins (ST) are classified into STa and STb according to their physicochemical and biologic characteristics. STa induces diarrhea, activating the guanylate cyclase-cGMP system. ST-like enterotoxins can be produced by bacteria other than E. coli, including Klebsiella pneumoniae. A Klebsiella ST has previously been shown to share some chemical and immunologic characteristics with E. coli ST. Aiming to define better the nature of Klebsiella ST, we have screened 237 children with diarrhea and 179 controls for ST-producing Klebsiella, using the SMA. We detected 26 Klebsiella strains from patients, two of which were positive in the SMA, and 36 from controls, all negative for ST. A partial purification was performed using an acetone precipitation followed by ultrafiltration and gel filtration techniques. Klebsiella toxin was heat-stable, methanol-soluble, sensitive to mercaptoethanol, active at acid pH values, but not at pH greater than 8. The time course of Klebsiella toxin in the SMA resembled that of E. coli STa. Klebsiella ST caused reduced Na absorption and net Cl secretion in rabbit ileal mucosa mounted in Ussing chambers. It was found to increase the cGMP but not the cAMP concentration. Finally, Klebsiella ST did not react with anti-E. coli STa MAb in a competitive ELISA. We conclude that K. pneumoniae may induce diarrhea through the production of an STa similar but not identical to E. coli STa.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Toxins / pharmacology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Diarrhea / microbiology*
  • Enterotoxins / isolation & purification*
  • Enterotoxins / pharmacology
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae* / isolation & purification


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Enterotoxins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • heat stable toxin (E coli)
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Cyclic GMP