The bacterial toxin CNF1 induces activation and maturation of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells

Laura Gall-Mas, Alessia Fabbri, Martin R.J. Namini, Michael Givskov, Carla Fiorentini, Thorbjørn Krejsgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cytotoxic necrotizing factor 1 (CNF1) is a bacterial protein toxin primarily expressed by pathogenic Escherichia coli strains, causing extraintestinal infections. The toxin is believed to enhance the invasiveness of E. coli by modulating the activity of Rho GTPases in host cells, but it has interestingly also been shown to promote inflammation, stimulate host immunity and function as a potent immunoadjuvant. The mechanisms underlying the immunostimulatory properties of CNF1 are, however, poorly characterized, and little is known about the direct effects of the toxin on immune cells. Here, we show that CNF1 induces expression of maturation markers on human immature monocyte-derived dendritic cells (moDCs) without compromising cell viability. Consistent with the phenotypic maturation, CNF1 further triggered secretion of proinflammatory cytokines and increased the capacity of moDCs to stimulate proliferation of allogenic naïve CD4+ T cells. A catalytically inactive form of the toxin did not induce moDC maturation, indicating that the enzymatic activity of CNF1 triggers immature moDCs to undergo phenotypic and functional maturation. As the maturation of dendritic cells plays a central role in initiating inflammation and activating the adaptive immune response, the present findings shed new light on the immunostimulatory properties of CNF1 and may explain why the toxin functions as an immunoadjuvant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1408
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 8 2018


  • CNF1
  • Bacterial toxins
  • Dendritic cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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