Staphylococcus aureus strain D4508 is a toxic shock syndrome toxin 1-negative clinical isolate from a nonmenstrual case of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). In the present study, we have purified and characterized a new exotoxin from the extracellular products of this strain. This toxin was found to have a molecular mass of 25.14 kD by mass spectrometry and an isoelectric point of 5.65 by isoelectric focusing. We have also cloned and sequenced its corresponding genomic determinant. The DNA sequence encoding the mature protein was found to be 654 base pairs and is predicted to encode a polypeptide of 218 amino acids. The deduced protein contains an NH2-terminal sequence identical to that of the native protein. The calculated molecular weight (25.21 kD) of the recombinant mature protein is also consistent with that of the native molecules. When injected intravenously into rabbits, both the native and recombinant toxins induce an acute TSS-like illness characterized by high fever, hypotension, diarrhea, shock, and in some cases death, with classical histological findings of TSS. Furthermore, the activity of the toxin is specifically enhanced by low quantities of endotoxins. The toxicity can be blocked by rabbit immunoglobulin G antibody specific for the toxin. Western blotting and DNA sequencing data confirm that the protein is a unique staphylococcal exotoxin, yet shares significant sequence homology with known staphylococcal enterotoxins, especially the SEA, SED, and SEE toxins. We conclude therefore that this 25-kD protein belongs to the staphylococcal enterotoxin gene family that is capable of inducing a TSS-like illness in rabbits.

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