The massive secretion of salt and water in cholera-induced diarrhea involves binding of cholera toxin (CT) to ganglioside GM1 in the apical membrane of intestinal epithelial cells, translocation of the enzymatically active A1-peptide across the membrane, and subsequent activation of adenylate cyclase located on the cytoplasmic surface of the basolateral membrane. Studies on nonpolarized cells show that CT is internalized by receptor-mediated endocytosis, and that the A1-subunit may remain membrane associated. To test the hypothesis that toxin action in polarized cells may involve intracellular movement of toxin-containing membranes, monolayers of the polarized intestinal epithelial cell line T84 were mounted in modified Ussing chambers and the response to CT was examined. Apical CT at 37 degrees C elicited a short circuit current (Isc: 48 +/- 2.1 microA/cm2; half-maximal effective dose, ED50 integral of 0.5 nM) after a lag of 33 +/- 2 min which bidirectional 22Na+ and 36Cl- flux studies showed to be due to electrogenic Cl- secretion. The time course of the CT-induced Isc response paralleled the time course of cAMP generation. The dose response to basolateral toxin at 37 degrees C was identical to that of apical CT but lag times (24 +/- 2 min) and initial rates were significantly less. At 20 degrees C, the Isc response to apical CT was more strongly inhibited (30-50%) than the response to basolateral CT, even though translocation occurred in both cases as evidenced by the formation of A1-peptide. A functional rhodamine-labeled CT-analogue applied apically or basolaterally at 20 degrees C was visualized only within endocytic vesicles close to apical or basolateral membranes, whereas movement into deeper apical structures was detected at 37 degrees C. At 15 degrees C, in contrast, reduction to the A1-peptide was completely inhibited and both apical and basolateral CT failed to stimulate Isc although Isc responses to 1 nM vasoactive intestinal peptide, 10 microM forskolin, and 3 mM 8Br-cAMP were intact. Re-warming above 32 degrees C restored CT-induced Isc. Preincubating monolayers for 30 min at 37 degrees C before cooling to 15 degrees C overcame the temperature block of basolateral CT but the response to apical toxin remained completely inhibited. These results identify a temperature-sensitive step essential to apical toxin action on polarized epithelial cells. We suggest that this event involves vesicular transport of toxin-containing membranes beyond the apical endosomal compartment.

This content is only available as a PDF.