Open AccessArticle
P2X-Receptor Antagonists Inhibit the Interaction of S. aureus Hemolysin A with Membranes
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 332; doi:10.3390/toxins9100332 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
The pore forming hemolysin A, Hla, is a major virulence factor of Staphylococcus aureus. Apparently, 1–2 pore(s) per cell suffice(s) to cause cell death. Accumulated experimental evidence points towards a major role of ATP-gated purinergic receptors (P2XR) for hemolysis caused by Hla,
[...] Read more.
The pore forming hemolysin A, Hla, is a major virulence factor of Staphylococcus aureus. Apparently, 1–2 pore(s) per cell suffice(s) to cause cell death. Accumulated experimental evidence points towards a major role of ATP-gated purinergic receptors (P2XR) for hemolysis caused by Hla, complement and other pore forming proteins, presumably by increasing membrane permeability. Indeed, in experiments employing rabbit erythrocytes, inhibitory concentrations of frequently employed P2XR-antagonists were in a similar range as previously reported for erythrocytes of other species and other toxins. However, Hla-dependent hemolysis was not enhanced by extracellular ATP, and oxidized adenosinetriphosphate (oxATP) had only a minor inhibitory effect. Unexpectedly, P2XR-inhibitors also prevented Hla-induced lysis of pure lipid membranes, demonstrating that the inhibition did not even depend on the presence of P2XR. Fluorescence microscopy and gel-electrophoresis clearly revealed that P2XR-inhibitors interfere with binding and subsequent oligomerisation of Hla with membranes. Similar results were obtained employing HaCaT-cells. Furthermore, calorimetric data and hemolysis experiments with Hla pre-treated with pyridoxal phosphate-6-azophenyl-2′,4′-disulfonic acid (PPADS) showed that this compound directly binds to Hla. Our results call for a critical re-assessment of the appealing concept, which suggests that P2XR are general amplifiers of damage by pore-forming proteins. Full article
Figures

Open AccessArticle
Mycotoxin Analysis of Human Urine by LC-MS/MS: A Comparative Extraction Study
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 330; doi:10.3390/toxins9100330 (registering DOI) -
Abstract
The lower mycotoxin levels detected in urine make the development of sensitive and accurate analytical methods essential. Three extraction methods, namely salting-out liquid–liquid extraction (SALLE), miniQuEChERS (quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, and safe), and dispersive liquid–liquid microextraction (DLLME), were evaluated and compared based
[...] Read more.
The lower mycotoxin levels detected in urine make the development of sensitive and accurate analytical methods essential. Three extraction methods, namely salting-out liquid–liquid extraction (SALLE), miniQuEChERS (quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, and safe), and dispersive liquid–liquid microextraction (DLLME), were evaluated and compared based on analytical parameters for the quantitative LC-MS/MS measurement of 11 mycotoxins (AFB1, AFB2, AFG1, AFG2, OTA, ZEA, BEA, EN A, EN B, EN A1 and EN B1) in human urine. DLLME was selected as the most appropriate methodology, as it produced better validation results for recovery (79–113%), reproducibility (RSDs < 12%), and repeatability (RSDs < 15%) than miniQuEChERS (71–109%, RSDs <14% and <24%, respectively) and SALLE (70–108%, RSDs < 14% and < 24%, respectively). Moreover, the lowest detection (LODS) and quantitation limits (LOQS) were achieved with DLLME (LODs: 0.005–2 μg L−1, LOQs: 0.1–4 μg L−1). DLLME methodology was used for the analysis of 10 real urine samples from healthy volunteers showing the presence of ENs B, B1 and A1 at low concentrations. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Risk Levels of Toxic Cyanobacteria in Portuguese Recreational Freshwaters
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 327; doi:10.3390/toxins9100327 -
Abstract
Portuguese freshwater reservoirs are important socio-economic resources, namely for recreational use. National legislation concerning bathing waters does not include mandatory levels or guidelines for cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins. This is an issue of concern since cyanotoxin-based evidence is insufficient to change the law, and
[...] Read more.
Portuguese freshwater reservoirs are important socio-economic resources, namely for recreational use. National legislation concerning bathing waters does not include mandatory levels or guidelines for cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins. This is an issue of concern since cyanotoxin-based evidence is insufficient to change the law, and the collection of scientific evidence has been hampered by the lack of regulatory levels for cyanotoxins in bathing waters. In this work, we evaluate the profile of cyanobacteria and microcystins (MC) in eight freshwater reservoirs from the center of Portugal, used for bathing/recreation, in order to determine the risk levels concerning toxic cyanobacteria occurrence. Three of the reservoirs did not pose a risk of MC contamination. However, two reservoirs presented a high risk in 7% of the samples according to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for MC in bathing waters (above 20 µg/L). In the remaining three reservoirs, the risk concerning microcystins occurrence was low. However, they exhibited recurrent blooms and persistent contamination with MC up to 4 µg/L. Thus, the risk of exposure to MC and potential acute and/or chronic health outcomes should not be disregarded in these reservoirs. These results contribute to characterize the cyanobacterial blooms profile and to map the risk of toxic cyanobacteria and microcystins occurrence in Portuguese inland waters. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Production, Characterisation and Testing of an Ovine Antitoxin against Ricin; Efficacy, Potency and Mechanisms of Action
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 329; doi:10.3390/toxins9100329 -
Abstract
Ricin is a type II ribosome-inactivating toxin that catalytically inactivates ribosomes ultimately leading to cell death. The toxicity of ricin along with the prevalence of castor beans (its natural source) has led to its increased notoriety and incidences of nefarious use. Despite these
[...] Read more.
Ricin is a type II ribosome-inactivating toxin that catalytically inactivates ribosomes ultimately leading to cell death. The toxicity of ricin along with the prevalence of castor beans (its natural source) has led to its increased notoriety and incidences of nefarious use. Despite these concerns, there are no licensed therapies available for treating ricin intoxication. Here, we describe the development of a F(ab’)2 polyclonal ovine antitoxin against ricin and demonstrate the efficacy of a single, post-exposure, administration in an in vivo murine model of intoxication against aerosolised ricin. We found that a single dose of antitoxin afforded a wide window of opportunity for effective treatment with 100% protection observed in mice challenged with aerosolised ricin when given 24 h after exposure to the toxin and 75% protection when given at 30 h. Treated mice had reduced weight loss and clinical signs of intoxication compared to the untreated control group. Finally, using imaging flow cytometry, it was found that both cellular uptake and intracellular trafficking of ricin toxin to the Golgi apparatus was reduced in the presence of the antitoxin suggesting both actions can contribute to the therapeutic mechanism of a polyclonal antitoxin. Collectively, the research highlights the significant potential of the ovine F(ab’)2 antitoxin as a treatment for ricin intoxication. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
A Monoclonal–Monoclonal Antibody Based Capture ELISA for Abrin
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 328; doi:10.3390/toxins9100328 -
Abstract
Abrin, one of the most highly potent toxins in the world, is derived from the plant, Abrus precatorius. Because of its high toxicity, it poses potential bioterror risks. Therefore, a need exists for new reagents and technologies that would be able to
[...] Read more.
Abrin, one of the most highly potent toxins in the world, is derived from the plant, Abrus precatorius. Because of its high toxicity, it poses potential bioterror risks. Therefore, a need exists for new reagents and technologies that would be able to rapidly detect abrin contamination as well as lead to new therapeutics. We report here a group of abrin-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that recognize abrin A-chain, intact A–B chain toxin, and agglutinin by Western blot. Additionally, these mAbs were evaluated for their ability to serve as capture antibodies for a sandwich (capture) ELISA. All possible capture–detector pairs were evaluated and the best antibody pair identified and optimized for a capture ELISA. The capture ELISA based on this capture–detector mAb pair had a limit of detection (L.O.D) of ≈1 ng/mL measured using three independent experiments. The assay did not reveal any false positives with extracts containing other potential ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs). Thus, this new capture ELISA uses mAbs for both capture and detection; has no cross-reactivity against other plant RIPs; and has a sensitivity comparable to other reported capture ELISAs using polyclonal antibodies as either capture or detector. Full article
Figures

Open AccessEditorial
Introduction to the Toxins Special Issue on LC-MS/MS Methods for Mycotoxin Analysis
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 325; doi:10.3390/toxins9100325 -
Abstract
Various filamentous fungi can produce secondary metabolites, whose biochemical significance in fungal growth and development has not always been fully clarified; however, some of these metabolites can cause deleterious effects on other organisms and are classified as mycotoxins [...]
Full article
Open AccessReview
Animal Toxins Providing Insights into TRPV1 Activation Mechanism
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 326; doi:10.3390/toxins9100326 -
Abstract
Beyond providing evolutionary advantages, venoms offer unique research tools, as they were developed to target functionally important proteins and pathways. As a key pain receptor in the nociceptive pathway, transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) of the TRP superfamily has been shown to
[...] Read more.
Beyond providing evolutionary advantages, venoms offer unique research tools, as they were developed to target functionally important proteins and pathways. As a key pain receptor in the nociceptive pathway, transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) of the TRP superfamily has been shown to be a target for several toxins, as a way of producing pain to deter predators. Importantly, TRPV1 is involved in thermoregulation, inflammation, and acute nociception. As such, toxins provide tools to understand TRPV1 activation and modulation, a critical step in advancing pain research and the development of novel analgesics. Indeed, the phytotoxin capsaicin, which is the spicy chemical in chili peppers, was invaluable in the original cloning and characterization of TRPV1. The unique properties of each subsequently characterized toxin have continued to advance our understanding of functional, structural, and biophysical characteristics of TRPV1. By building on previous reviews, this work aims to provide a comprehensive summary of the advancements made in TRPV1 research in recent years by employing animal toxins, in particular DkTx, RhTx, BmP01, Echis coloratus toxins, APHCs and HCRG21. We examine each toxin’s functional aspects, behavioral effects, and structural features, all of which have contributed to our current knowledge of TRPV1. We additionally discuss the key features of TRPV1’s outer pore domain, which proves to be the target of the currently discussed toxins. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessReview
Recent Advances in Mycotoxin Determination for Food Monitoring via Microchip
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 324; doi:10.3390/toxins9100324 -
Abstract
Mycotoxins are one of the main factors impacting food safety. Mycotoxin contamination has threatened the health of humans and animals. Conventional methods for the detection of mycotoxins are gas chromatography (GC) or liquid chromatography (LC) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS), or enzyme-linked immunosorbent
[...] Read more.
Mycotoxins are one of the main factors impacting food safety. Mycotoxin contamination has threatened the health of humans and animals. Conventional methods for the detection of mycotoxins are gas chromatography (GC) or liquid chromatography (LC) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS), or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). However, all these methods are time-consuming, require large-scale instruments and skilled technicians, and consume large amounts of hazardous regents and solvents. Interestingly, a microchip requires less sample consumption and short analysis time, and can realize the integration, miniaturization, and high-throughput detection of the samples. Hence, the application of a microchip for the detection of mycotoxins can make up for the deficiency of the conventional detection methods. This review focuses on the application of a microchip to detect mycotoxins in foods. The toxicities of mycotoxins and the materials of the microchip are firstly summarized in turn. Then the application of a microchip that integrates various kinds of detection methods (optical, electrochemical, photo-electrochemical, and label-free detection) to detect mycotoxins is reviewed in detail. Finally, challenges and future research directions in the development of a microchip to detect mycotoxins are previewed. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Temperature Influences the Production and Transport of Saxitoxin and the Expression of sxt Genes in the Cyanobacterium Aphanizomenon gracile
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 322; doi:10.3390/toxins9100322 -
Abstract
The cyanobacterium Aphanizomenon gracile is the most widely distributed producer of the potent neurotoxin saxitoxin in freshwaters. In this work, total and extracellular saxitoxin and the transcriptional response of three genes linked to saxitoxin biosynthesis (sxtA) and transport (sxtM,
[...] Read more.
The cyanobacterium Aphanizomenon gracile is the most widely distributed producer of the potent neurotoxin saxitoxin in freshwaters. In this work, total and extracellular saxitoxin and the transcriptional response of three genes linked to saxitoxin biosynthesis (sxtA) and transport (sxtM, sxtPer) were assessed in Aphanizomenon gracile UAM529 cultures under temperatures covering its annual cycle (12 °C, 23 °C, and 30 °C). Temperature influenced saxitoxin production being maximum at high temperatures (30 °C) above the growth optimum (23 °C), concurring with a 4.3-fold increased sxtA expression at 30 °C. Extracellular saxitoxin transport was temperature-dependent, with maxima at extremes of temperature (12 °C with 16.9% extracellular saxitoxin; and especially 30 °C with 53.8%) outside the growth optimum (23 °C), coinciding with a clear upregulation of sxtM at both 12 °C and 30 °C (3.8–4.1 fold respectively), and yet with just a slight upregulation of sxtPer at 30 °C (2.1-fold). Nitrate depletion also induced a high extracellular saxitoxin release (51.2%), although without variations of sxtM and sxtPer transcription, and showing evidence of membrane damage. This is the first study analysing the transcriptional response of sxtPer under environmental gradients, as well as the effect of temperature on putative saxitoxin transporters (sxtM and sxtPer) in cyanobacteria in general. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Shiga Toxins Induce Apoptosis and ER Stress in Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 319; doi:10.3390/toxins9100319 -
Abstract
Shiga toxins (Stxs) produced by Shiga toxin-producing bacteria Shigella dysenteriae serotype 1 and select serotypes of Escherichia coli are the most potent known virulence factors in the pathogenesis of hemorrhagic colitis progressing to potentially fatal systemic complications such as acute renal failure, blindness
[...] Read more.
Shiga toxins (Stxs) produced by Shiga toxin-producing bacteria Shigella dysenteriae serotype 1 and select serotypes of Escherichia coli are the most potent known virulence factors in the pathogenesis of hemorrhagic colitis progressing to potentially fatal systemic complications such as acute renal failure, blindness and neurological abnormalities. Although numerous studies have defined apoptotic responses to Shiga toxin type 1 (Stx1) or Shiga toxin type 2 (Stx2) in a variety of cell types, the potential significance of Stx-induced apoptosis of photoreceptor and pigmented cells of the eye following intoxication is unknown. We explored the use of immortalized human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells as an in vitro model of Stx-induced retinal damage. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first report that intoxication of RPE cells with Stxs activates both apoptotic cell death signaling and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response. Using live-cell imaging analysis, fluorescently labeled Stx1 or Stx2 were internalized and routed to the RPE cell endoplasmic reticulum. RPE cells were significantly sensitive to wild type Stxs by 72 h, while the cells survived challenge with enzymatically deficient mutant toxins (Stx1A or Stx2A). Upon exposure to purified Stxs, RPE cells showed activation of a caspase-dependent apoptotic program involving a reduction of mitochondrial transmembrane potential (Δψm), increased activation of ER stress sensors IRE1, PERK and ATF6, and overexpression CHOP and DR5. Finally, we demonstrated that treatment of RPE cells with Stxs resulted in the activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK), suggesting that the ribotoxic stress response may be triggered. Collectively, these data support the involvement of Stx-induced apoptosis in ocular complications of intoxication. The evaluation of apoptotic responses to Stxs by cells isolated from multiple organs may reveal unique functional patterns of the cytotoxic actions of these toxins in the systemic complications that follow ingestion of toxin-producing bacteria. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Anti-Salmonella Activity Modulation of Mastoparan V1—A Wasp Venom Toxin—Using Protease Inhibitors, and Its Efficient Production via an Escherichia coli Secretion System
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 321; doi:10.3390/toxins9100321 -
Abstract
A previous study highlighted that mastoparan V1 (MP-V1), a mastoparan from the venom of the social wasp Vespula vulgaris, is a potent antimicrobial peptide against Salmonella infection, which causes enteric diseases. However, there exist some limits for its practical application due to
[...] Read more.
A previous study highlighted that mastoparan V1 (MP-V1), a mastoparan from the venom of the social wasp Vespula vulgaris, is a potent antimicrobial peptide against Salmonella infection, which causes enteric diseases. However, there exist some limits for its practical application due to the loss of its activity in an increased bacterial density and the difficulty of its efficient production. In this study, we first modulated successfully the antimicrobial activity of synthetic MP-V1 against an increased Salmonella population using protease inhibitors, and developed an Escherichia coli secretion system efficiently producing active MP-V1. The protease inhibitors used, except pepstatin A, significantly increased the antimicrobial activity of the synthetic MP-V1 at minimum inhibitory concentrations (determined against 106 cfu/mL of population) against an increased population (108 cfu/mL) of three different Salmonella serotypes, Gallinarum, Typhimurium and Enteritidis. Meanwhile, the E. coli strain harboring OmpA SS::MP-V1 was identified to successfully secrete active MP-V1 into cell-free supernatant, whose antimicrobial activity disappeared in the increased population (108 cfu/mL) of Salmonella Typhimurium recovered by adding a protease inhibitor cocktail. Therefore, it has been concluded that our challenge using the E. coli secretion system with the protease inhibitors is an attractive strategy for practical application of peptide toxins, such as MP-V1. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Abrin Toxicity and Bioavailability after Temperature and pH Treatment
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 320; doi:10.3390/toxins9100320 -
Abstract
Abrin, one of most potent toxins known to man, is derived from the rosary pea (jequirity pea), Abrus precatorius and is a potential bioterror weapon. The temperature and pH stability of abrin was evaluated with an in vitro cell free translation (CFT) assay,
[...] Read more.
Abrin, one of most potent toxins known to man, is derived from the rosary pea (jequirity pea), Abrus precatorius and is a potential bioterror weapon. The temperature and pH stability of abrin was evaluated with an in vitro cell free translation (CFT) assay, a Vero cell culture cytotoxicity assay, and an in vivo mouse bioassay. pH treatment of abrin had no detrimental effect on its stability and toxicity as seen either in vitro or in vivo. Abrin exposure to increasing temperatures did not completely abrogate protein translation. In both the cell culture cytotoxicity model and the mouse bioassay, abrin’s toxic effects were completely abrogated if the toxin was exposed to temperatures of 74 °C or higher. In the cell culture model, 63 °C-treated abrin had a 30% reduction in cytotoxicity which was validated in the in vivo mouse bioassay with all mice dying but with a slight time-to-death delay as compared to the non-treated abrin control. Since temperature inactivation did not affect abrin’s ability to inhibit protein synthesis (A-chain), we hypothesize that high temperature treatment affected abrin’s ability to bind to cellular receptors (affecting B-chain). Our results confirm the absolute need to validate in vitro cytotoxicity assays with in vivo mouse bioassays. Full article
Figures

Open AccessArticle
Palladium Nanoparticles-Based Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer Aptasensor for Highly Sensitive Detection of Aflatoxin M1 in Milk
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 318; doi:10.3390/toxins9100318 -
Abstract
A highly sensitive aptasensor for aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) detection was constructed based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between 5-carboxyfluorescein (FAM) and palladium nanoparticles (PdNPs). PdNPs (33 nm) were synthesized through a seed-mediated growth method and exhibited broad and strong
[...] Read more.
A highly sensitive aptasensor for aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) detection was constructed based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between 5-carboxyfluorescein (FAM) and palladium nanoparticles (PdNPs). PdNPs (33 nm) were synthesized through a seed-mediated growth method and exhibited broad and strong absorption in the whole ultraviolet-visible (UV-Vis) range. The strong coordination interaction between nitrogen functional groups of the AFM1 aptamer and PdNPs brought FAM and PdNPs in close proximity, which resulted in the fluorescence quenching of FAM to a maximum extent of 95%. The non-specific fluorescence quenching caused by PdNPs towards fluorescein was negligible. After the introduction of AFM1 into the FAM-AFM1 aptamer-PdNPs FRET system, the AFM1 aptamer preferentially combined with AFM1 accompanied by conformational change, which greatly weakened the coordination interaction between the AFM1 aptamer and PdNPs. Thus, fluorescence recovery of FAM was observed and a linear relationship between the fluorescence recovery and the concentration of AFM1 was obtained in the range of 5–150 pg/mL in aqueous buffer with the detection limit of 1.5 pg/mL. AFM1 detection was also realized in milk samples with a linear detection range from 6 pg/mL to 150 pg/mL. The highly sensitive FRET aptasensor with simple configuration shows promising prospect in detecting a variety of food contaminants. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Combined Venom Gland Transcriptomic and Venom Peptidomic Analysis of the Predatory Ant Odontomachus monticola
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 323; doi:10.3390/toxins9100323 -
Abstract
Ants (hymenoptera: Formicidae) have adapted to many different environments and have become some of the most prolific and successful insects. To date, 13,258 ant species have been reported. They have been classified into 333 genera and 17 subfamilies. Except for a few Formicinae,
[...] Read more.
Ants (hymenoptera: Formicidae) have adapted to many different environments and have become some of the most prolific and successful insects. To date, 13,258 ant species have been reported. They have been classified into 333 genera and 17 subfamilies. Except for a few Formicinae, Dolichoderinae, and members of other subfamilies, most ant species have a sting with venom. The venoms are composed of formic acid, alkaloids, hydrocarbons, amines, peptides, and proteins. Unlike the venoms of other animals such as snakes and spiders, ant venoms have seldom been analyzed comprehensively, and their compositions are not yet completely known. In this study, we used both transcriptomic and peptidomic analyses to study the composition of the venom produced by the predatory ant species Odontomachus monticola. The transcriptome analysis yielded 49,639 contigs, of which 92 encoded toxin-like peptides and proteins with 18,106,338 mapped reads. We identified six pilosulin-like peptides by transcriptomic analysis in the venom gland. Further, we found intact pilosulin-like peptide 1 and truncated pilosulin-like peptides 2 and 3 by peptidomic analysis in the venom. Our findings related to ant venom peptides and proteins may lead the way towards development and application of novel pharmaceutical and biopesticidal resources. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
The Aspergillus flavus Homeobox Gene, hbx1, Is Required for Development and Aflatoxin Production
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 315; doi:10.3390/toxins9100315 -
Abstract
Homeobox proteins, a class of well conserved transcription factors, regulate the expression of targeted genes, especially those involved in development. In filamentous fungi, homeobox genes are required for normal conidiogenesis and fruiting body formation. In the present study, we identified eight homeobox (
[...] Read more.
Homeobox proteins, a class of well conserved transcription factors, regulate the expression of targeted genes, especially those involved in development. In filamentous fungi, homeobox genes are required for normal conidiogenesis and fruiting body formation. In the present study, we identified eight homeobox (hbx) genes in the aflatoxin-producing ascomycete, Aspergillus flavus, and determined their respective role in growth, conidiation and sclerotial production. Disruption of seven of the eight genes had little to no effect on fungal growth and development. However, disruption of the homeobox gene AFLA_069100, designated as hbx1, in two morphologically different A. flavus strains, CA14 and AF70, resulted in complete loss of production of conidia and sclerotia as well as aflatoxins B1 and B2, cyclopiazonic acid and aflatrem. Microscopic examination showed that the Δhbx1 mutants did not produce conidiophores. The inability of Δhbx1 mutants to produce conidia was related to downregulation of brlA (bristle) and abaA (abacus), regulatory genes for conidiophore development. These mutants also had significant downregulation of the aflatoxin pathway biosynthetic genes aflC, aflD, aflM and the cluster-specific regulatory gene, aflR. Our results demonstrate that hbx1 not only plays a significant role in controlling A. flavus development but is also critical for the production of secondary metabolites, such as aflatoxins. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessReview
Helicobacter pylori Vacuolating Toxin and Gastric Cancer
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 316; doi:10.3390/toxins9100316 -
Abstract
Helicobacter pylori VacA is a channel-forming toxin unrelated to other known bacterial toxins. Most H. pylori strains contain a vacA gene, but there is marked variation among strains in VacA toxin activity. This variation is attributable to strain-specific variations in VacA amino acid
[...] Read more.
Helicobacter pylori VacA is a channel-forming toxin unrelated to other known bacterial toxins. Most H. pylori strains contain a vacA gene, but there is marked variation among strains in VacA toxin activity. This variation is attributable to strain-specific variations in VacA amino acid sequences, as well as variations in the levels of VacA transcription and secretion. In this review, we discuss epidemiologic studies showing an association between specific vacA allelic types and gastric cancer, as well as studies that have used animal models to investigate VacA activities relevant to gastric cancer. We also discuss the mechanisms by which VacA-induced cellular alterations may contribute to the pathogenesis of gastric cancer. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessReview
Plant Ribosome-Inactivating Proteins: Progesses, Challenges and Biotechnological Applications (and a Few Digressions)
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 314; doi:10.3390/toxins9100314 -
Abstract
Plant ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP) toxins are EC3.2.2.22 N-glycosidases, found among most plant species encoded as small gene families, distributed in several tissues being endowed with defensive functions against fungal or viral infections. The two main plant RIP classes include type I (monomeric) and
[...] Read more.
Plant ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP) toxins are EC3.2.2.22 N-glycosidases, found among most plant species encoded as small gene families, distributed in several tissues being endowed with defensive functions against fungal or viral infections. The two main plant RIP classes include type I (monomeric) and type II (dimeric) as the prototype ricin holotoxin from Ricinus communis that is composed of a catalytic active A chain linked via a disulphide bridge to a B-lectin domain that mediates efficient endocytosis in eukaryotic cells. Plant RIPs can recognize a universally conserved stem-loop, known as the α-sarcin/ ricin loop or SRL structure in 23S/25S/28S rRNA. By depurinating a single adenine (A4324 in 28S rat rRNA), they can irreversibly arrest protein translation and trigger cell death in the intoxicated mammalian cell. Besides their useful application as potential weapons against infected/tumor cells, ricin was also used in bio-terroristic attacks and, as such, constitutes a major concern. In this review, we aim to summarize past studies and more recent progresses made studying plant RIPs and discuss successful approaches that might help overcoming some of the bottlenecks encountered during the development of their biomedical applications. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Response of Intestinal Bacterial Flora to the Long-term Feeding of Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) in Mice
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 317; doi:10.3390/toxins9100317 -
Abstract
In order to investigate the influence of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) on intestinal bacterial flora, 24 Kunming mice (KM mice) were randomly placed into four groups, which were labeled as control, low-dose, medium-dose, and high-dose groups. They were fed intragastrically with 0.4 mL of
[...] Read more.
In order to investigate the influence of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) on intestinal bacterial flora, 24 Kunming mice (KM mice) were randomly placed into four groups, which were labeled as control, low-dose, medium-dose, and high-dose groups. They were fed intragastrically with 0.4 mL of 0 mg/L, 2.5 mg/L, 4 mg/L, or 10 mg/L of AFB1 solutions, twice a day for 2 months. The hypervariable region V3 + V4 on 16S rDNA of intestinal bacterial flora was sequenced by the use of a high-flux sequencing system on a Miseq Illumina platform; then, the obtained sequences were analyzed. The results showed that, when compared with the control group, both genera and phyla of intestinal bacteria in the three treatment groups decreased. About one third of the total genera and one half of the total phyla remained in the high-dose group. The dominant flora were Lactobacillus and Bacteroides in all groups. There were significant differences in the relative abundance of intestinal bacterial flora among groups. Most bacteria decreased as a whole from the control to the high-dose groups, but several beneficial and pathogenic bacterial species increased significantly with increasing dose of AFB1. Thus, the conclusion was that intragastric feeding with 2.5~10 mg/mL AFB1 for 2 months could decrease the majority of intestinal bacterial flora and induce the proliferation of some intestinal bacteria flora. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Variation and Distribution of L-A Helper Totiviruses in Saccharomyces sensu stricto Yeasts Producing Different Killer Toxins
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 313; doi:10.3390/toxins9100313 -
Abstract
Yeasts within the Saccharomyces sensu stricto cluster can produce different killer toxins. Each toxin is encoded by a medium size (1.5–2.4 Kb) M dsRNA virus, maintained by a larger helper virus generally called L-A (4.6 Kb). Different types of L-A are found associated
[...] Read more.
Yeasts within the Saccharomyces sensu stricto cluster can produce different killer toxins. Each toxin is encoded by a medium size (1.5–2.4 Kb) M dsRNA virus, maintained by a larger helper virus generally called L-A (4.6 Kb). Different types of L-A are found associated to specific Ms: L-A in K1 strains and L-A-2 in K2 strains. Here, we extend the analysis of L-A helper viruses to yeasts other than S. cerevisiae, namely S. paradoxus, S. uvarum and S. kudriavzevii. Our sequencing data from nine new L-A variants confirm the specific association of each toxin-producing M and its helper virus, suggesting co-evolution. Their nucleotide sequences vary from 10% to 30% and the variation seems to depend on the geographical location of the hosts, suggesting cross-species transmission between species in the same habitat. Finally, we transferred by genetic methods different killer viruses from S. paradoxus into S. cerevisiae or viruses from S. cerevisiae into S. uvarum or S. kudriavzevii. In the foster hosts, we observed no impairment for their stable transmission and maintenance, indicating that the requirements for virus amplification in these species are essentially the same. We also characterized new killer toxins from S. paradoxus and constructed “superkiller” strains expressing them. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Target-Specificity in Scorpions; Comparing Lethality of Scorpion Venoms across Arthropods and Vertebrates
Toxins 2017, 9(10), 312; doi:10.3390/toxins9100312 -
Abstract
Scorpions use their venom in defensive situations as well as for subduing prey. Since some species of scorpion use their venom more in defensive situations than others, this may have led to selection for differences in effectiveness in defensive situations. Here, we compared
[...] Read more.
Scorpions use their venom in defensive situations as well as for subduing prey. Since some species of scorpion use their venom more in defensive situations than others, this may have led to selection for differences in effectiveness in defensive situations. Here, we compared the LD50 of the venom of 10 species of scorpions on five different species of target organisms; two insects and three vertebrates. We found little correlation between the target species in the efficacy of the different scorpion venoms. Only the two insects showed a positive correlation, indicating that they responded similarly to the panel of scorpion venoms. We discuss the lack of positive correlation between the vertebrate target species in the light of their evolution and development. When comparing the responses of the target systems to individual scorpion venoms pairwise, we found that closely related scorpion species tend to elicit a similar response pattern across the target species. This was further reflected in a significant phylogenetic signal across the scorpion phylogeny for the LD50 in mice and in zebrafish. We also provide the first mouse LD50 value for Grosphusgrandidieri. Full article