In Colon Epithelia, Clostridium perfringens Enterotoxin Causes Focal Leaks by Targeting Claudins Which are Apically Accessible Due to Tight Junction Derangement

J Infect Dis. 2017 Dec 27;217(1):147-157. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jix485.


Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) causes food poisoning and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. It uses some claudin tight junction proteins (eg, claudin-4) as receptors to form Ca2+-permeable pores in the membrane, damaging epithelial cells in small intestine and colon. We demonstrate that only a subpopulation of colonic enterocytes which are characterized by apical dislocation of claudins are CPE-susceptible. CPE-mediated damage was enhanced if paracellular barrier was impaired by Ca2+ depletion, proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor α, or dedifferentiation. Microscopy, Ca2+ monitoring, and electrophysiological data showed that CPE-mediated cytotoxicity and barrier disruption was limited by extent of CPE-binding. The latter was restricted by accessibility of non-junctional claudin molecules such as claudin-4 at apical membranes. Focal-leaks detected in HT-29/B6 colonic monolayers were verified for native tissue using colon biopsies. These mechanistic findings indicate how CPE-mediated effects may turn from self-limiting diarrhea into severe clinical manifestation such as colonic necrosis-if intestinal barrier dysfunction, eg, during inflammation facilitates claudin accessibility.

Keywords: Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin; HT-29/B6 cells; claudin; pore-forming toxin; tight junction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Claudins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Clostridium Infections / pathology*
  • Clostridium perfringens / pathogenicity*
  • Colon / pathology*
  • Enterocytes / pathology
  • Enterotoxins / toxicity*
  • Foodborne Diseases / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Permeability
  • Tight Junctions / pathology*


  • Claudins
  • Enterotoxins
  • enterotoxin, Clostridium