Pneumolysin, a protein toxin of Streptococcus pneumoniae, induces nitric oxide production from macrophages

Johann S. Braun, Rodger Novak, Geli Gao, Peter J. Murray, Jerry L. Shenep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Nitric oxide (NO) production by inducible NO synthase (iNOS) during inflammation is an essential element of antimicrobial immunity but can also contribute to host-induced tissue damage. Under conditions of bacterial sepsis, large amounts of NO are produced, causing hypotension, a critical pathological feature of septic shock. In sepsis caused by gram-positive organisms, the bacterial factors contributing to host NO production are poorly characterized. We show that a soluble toxin of Streptococcus pneumoniae, pneumolysin (Pln), is a key component initiating NO production from macrophages. In contrast to wild-type bacteria, a mutant of S. pneumoniae lacking Pln failed to elicit NO production from murine macrophages. Purified recombinant Pln induced NO production at low concentrations and independently of exogenous gamma interferon (IFN-γ) priming of RAW 264.7 macrophages. However, IFN-γ was essential for Pln- induced NO production, since primary macrophages from mice lacking the IFN- γ receptor or interferon regulatory factor 1, a transcription factor essential for iNOS expression, failed to produce NO when stimulated with Pln. In addition, Pln acts as an agonist of tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 6 production in macrophages. The properties of Pln, previously identified as a pore-forming hemolysin, also include a role as a general inflammatory agonist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3750-3756
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Pneumolysin, a protein toxin of Streptococcus pneumoniae, induces nitric oxide production from macrophages'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this