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Vol. 74, No. 4, 2006; Pages: 2015–2021

Leukotoxin Confers Beta-Hemolytic Activity to
Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans

Nataliya V. Balashova, Juan A. Crosby, Lourdes Al Ghofaily, and Scott C. Kachlany*

Department of Oral Biology, Medical Science Building C-636, University of Medicine and
Dentistry of NJ, 185 S. Orange Avenue, Newark, NJ 07103.


Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans is the etiologic agent of localized aggressive periodontitis, a rapidly progressing oral disease that occurs in adolescents. A. actinomycetemcomitans can also cause systemic disease, including infective endocarditis. In early work on A. actinomycetemcomitans workers concluded that this bacterium is not beta-hemolytic. More recent reports have suggested that A. actinomycetemcomitans does have the potential to be beta-hemolytic. While growing A. actinomycetemcomitans on several types of growth media, we noticed a beta-hemolytic reaction on media from one manufacturer. Beta-hemolysis occurred on Columbia agar from Accumedia with either sheep or horse blood, but not on similar media from other manufacturers. A surprising result was that mutants of A. actinomycetemcomitans defective for production of leukotoxin, a toxin that is reportedly highly specific for only human and primate white blood cells, are not beta-hemolytic. Purified leukotoxin was able to lyse sheep and human erythrocytes in vitro. This work showed that in contrast to the accepted view, A. actinomycetemcomitans leukotoxin can indeed destroy erythrocytes and that the production of this toxin results in beta-hemolytic colonies on solid medium. In light of these results, the diagnostic criteria for clinical identification of A. actinomycetemcomitans and potentially related bacteria should be reevaluated. Furthermore, in studies on A. actinomycetemcomitans leukotoxin workers should now consider this toxin’s ability to destroy red blood cells.

Keywords:Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans;Eikenella corrodens;endocarditis;localized
aggressive periodontitis;Cardiobacterium hominis;Haemophilus aphrophilus;taxonomy.

Corresponding author: Tel (973) 972-3057; Fax (973) 972-0045

E-mail: kachlasc@umdnj.edu


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