Secreted factors of Staphylococcus aureus can activate host signaling from the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The superantigen toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1) contributes to mucosal cytokine production through a disintegrin and metalloproteinase (ADAM)-mediated shedding of EGFR ligands and subsequent EGFR activation. The secreted hemolysin, α-toxin, can also induce EGFR signaling and directly interacts with ADAM10, a sheddase of EGFR ligands. The current work explores the role of EGFR signaling in menstrual toxic shock syndrome (mTSS), a disease mediated by TSST-1. The data presented show that TSST-1 and α-toxin induce ADAM- and EGFR-dependent cytokine production from human vaginal epithelial cells. TSST-1 and α-toxin also induce cytokine production from an ex vivo porcine vaginal mucosa (PVM) model. EGFR signaling is responsible for the majority of IL-8 production from PVM in response to secreted toxins and live S. aureus. Finally, data are presented demonstrating that inhibition of EGFR signaling with the EGFR-specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor AG1478 significantly increases survival in a rabbit model of mTSS. These data indicate that EGFR signaling is critical for progression of an S. aureus exotoxin-mediated disease and may represent an attractive host target for therapeutics.

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