A potential key role for alpha-haemolysin of in mediating chondrocyte death in septic arthritis

I D M Smith, K M Milto, C J Doherty, S G B Amyes, A H R W Simpson, A C Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is the most commonly implicated organism in septic arthritis, a condition that may be highly destructive to articular cartilage. Previous studies investigating laboratory and clinical strains of S. aureus have demonstrated that potent toxins induced significant chondrocyte death, although the precise toxin or toxins that were involved was unknown. In this study, we used isogenic S. aureus mutants to assess the influence of alpha (Hla)-, beta (Hlb)-, and gamma (Hlg)-haemolysins, toxins considered important for the destruction of host tissue, on in situ bovine chondrocyte viability.

Methods: Bovine cartilage explants were cultured with isogenic S. aureus mutants and/or their culture supernatants. Chondrocyte viability was then assessed within defined regions of interest in the axial and coronal plane following live- and dead-cell imaging using the fluorescent probes 5-chloromethylfluorescein diacetate and propidium iodide, respectively, and confocal laser-scanning microscopy.

Results: Hla-producing mutants caused substantial chondrocyte death compared with the toxin-deficient control (Hla-Hlb-Hlg-), whilst mutants producing Hlb and Hlg in the absence of Hla induced minimal chondrocyte death. Coronal studies established that Hla-induced chondrocyte death started in the superficial zone of cartilage and spread to deeper layers, whereas Hlb and Hlg toxins were without significant effect.

Conclusion: This study identified Hla as a highly potent S. aureus toxin that caused rapid chondrocyte death in bovine cartilage, with other toxins or metabolic products produced by the bacteria playing a minor role. The identification of Hla in mediating chondrocyte death may assist in the development of therapeutic strategies aimed at reducing the extent of cartilage damage during and after an episode of septic arthritis.Cite this article: I. D. M. Smith, K. M. Milto, C. J. Doherty, S. G. B. Amyes, A. H. R. W. Simpson, A. C. Hall. A potential key role for alpha-haemolysin of Staphylococcus aureus in mediating chondrocyte death in septic arthritis. Bone Joint Res 2018;7:457-467. DOI: 10.1302/2046-3758.77.BJR-2017-0165.R1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-467
Number of pages11
JournalBone & Joint Research
Issue number7
Early online date13 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jul 2018


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