Detection and expression of DNA homologous to the tox gene in nontoxinogenic isolates of Corynebacterium diphtheriae

N. Groman, N. Cianciotto, M. Bjorn, M. Rabin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Three probes have been described which can be used to detect the presence of DNA sequences homologous to the tox gene of Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Probes 'A' and 'B' detected sequences coding for A and B fragments of diphtheria toxin, respectively. The third 'A-B' probe contained both the A and B coding sequences. The B probe was completely unambiquous in detecting only toxin-related sequences, and the A probe was only lightly less so. The efficacy of the probes was tested on a series of toxinogenic and nontoxinogenic isolates of C. diphtheriae. All isolates which were toxinogenic as characterized by the gel immunodiffusion technique gave positive reactions with the probes. Of particular interest was the finding that 14 of 43 nontoxinogenic isolates also carried DNA homologous to both the A and B probes. All 14 isolates were nontoxinogenic by the rabbit intracutaneous test as well as by the gel immunodiffusion test; however, 12 of them produced ADP-ribosylating activity, whereas two were negative. The isolates producing ADP-ribosylating activity belonged to a cohort of cultures, of which 11 were isolated in South Dakota and 1 was isolated in Montana. Genomic DNAs of all 12 appeared to be identical when restriction enzyme digest patterns were compared, and the same fragment carried the tox gene in all of them. The tox-bearing nontoxinogenic isolates from Alaska and Florida each had unique restriction patterns and did not produce ADP-ribosylating activity. A number of genomic fragments of all the tox-bearing nontoxinogenic isolates hybridized with β converting phage DNA. The significance of these observations to the natural history of diphtheria was discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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