After incubation with various agents in vitro, the lethal effects of aqueous solutions of Cl. perfringens alpha toxin, C. diphtheriae toxin, and E. coli endotoxin were tested in mice, guinea pigs, and rabbits, respectively.
Iron, copper, cysteine, ascorbic acid, and versene counteracted the lethal effects of alpha toxin in mice, while magnesium, manganese, zinc, and citrate did not.
Iron also counteracted the lethal effects of diphtheria toxin in guinea pigs. After incubation of endotoxin with iron, its lethal effects and tissue-necrotizing actions in rabbits were counteracted. However, the pyrogenic properties of the toxin were not affected.
The solubilities of perfringens alpha toxin and diphtheria toxin were markedly reduced after incubation with detoxifying metals, and resolubilization of these toxins with chelators resulted in partial restoration of toxicity. Addition of versene to detoxified endotoxin also resulted in partial recovery of lethal effectiveness.
The inactivation of bacterial toxins by iron under in vitro conditions is not specific to this metal, is a reversible process, and may be due to desolubilization, reduction, or to competition by the metal for sites on the toxin normally bound by other cations in vivo.
Although no evidence is presented in this paper to support the view that there is a relationship between the inactivation of endotoxin and the storage iron in the reticuloendothelial system of shocked animals, the observation of an in vitro inactivation of endotoxin by inorganic iron warrants consideration of such a mechanism.