Anthrax is a severe, although rather rare, infectious disease that is caused by the Gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The infectious form is the spore and the major virulence factors of the bacterium are its poly-γ-D-glutamic acid capsule and the tripartite anthrax toxin. The discovery of the anthrax toxin receptors in the early 2000s has allowed in-depth studies on the mechanisms of anthrax toxin cellular entry and translocation from the endocytic compartment to the cytoplasm. The toxin generally hijacks the endocytic pathway of CMG2 and TEM8, the two anthrax toxin receptors, in order to reach the endosomes. From there, the pore-forming subunit of the toxin inserts into endosomal membranes and enables translocation of the two catalytic subunits. Insertion of the pore-forming unit preferentially occurs in intraluminal vesicles rather than the limiting membrane of the endosome, leading to the translocation of the enzymatic subunits in the lumen of these vesicles. This has important consequences that will be discussed. Ultimately, the toxins reach the cytosol where they act on their respective targets. Target modification has severe consequences on cell behavior, in particular on cells of the immune system, allowing the spread of the bacterium, in severe cases leading to host death. Here we will review the literature on anthrax disease with a focus on the structure of the toxin, how it enters cells and its immunological effects.
anthrax toxin; endocytosis; protein structure; anthrax toxin receptors; cancer treatment
In 1995, in the Biochemical Society Transactions, Mundy published the first review on CLIMP-63 (cytoskeleton-linking membrane protein 63) or CKPA4 (cytoskeleton-associated protein 4), initially just p63. Here we review the following 20 years of research on this still mysterious protein. CLIMP-63 is a type II transmembrane protein, the cytosolic domain of which has the capacity to bind microtubules whereas the luminal domain can form homo-oligomeric complexes, not only with neighbouring molecules but also, in trans, with CLIMP-63 molecules on the other side of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) lumen, thus promoting the formation of ER sheets. CLIMP-63 however also appears to have a life at the cell surface where it acts as a ligand-activated receptor. The still rudimentary information of how CLIMP-63 fulfills these different roles, what these are exactly and how post-translational modifications control them, will be discussed.
cytoskeleton-linking membrane protein (CLIMP-63)/ cytoskeleton-associated protein 4 (CKAP4); palmitoyl-acyltransferase 2 (has a DHHC motif) [DHHC2]; endoplasmic reticulum (ER) cytoskeleton anchor; nuclear translocation; palmitoylation; plasma membrane receptor; rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER)
Motivation: Lipids are a large and diverse group of biological molecules with roles in membrane formation, energy storage and signaling. Cellular lipidomes may contain tens of thousands of structures, a staggering degree of complexity whose significance is not yet fully understood. High-throughput mass spectrometry-based platforms provide a means to study this complexity, but the interpretation of lipidomic data and its integration with prior knowledge of lipid biology suffers from a lack of appropriate tools to manage the data and extract knowledge from it.
Results: To facilitate the description and exploration of lipidomic data and its integration with prior biological knowledge, we have developed a knowledge resource for lipids and their biology—SwissLipids. SwissLipids provides curated knowledge of lipid structures and metabolism which is used to generate an in silico library of feasible lipid structures. These are arranged in a hierarchical classification that links mass spectrometry analytical outputs to all possible lipid structures, metabolic reactions and enzymes. SwissLipids provides a reference namespace for lipidomic data publication, data exploration and hypothesis generation. The current version of SwissLipids includes over 244 000 known and theoretically possible lipid structures, over 800 proteins, and curated links to published knowledge from over 620 peer-reviewed publications. We are continually updating the SwissLipids hierarchy with new lipid categories and new expert curated knowledge.
Availability: SwissLipids is freely available at http://www.swisslipids.org/.
Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
ANTXR 1 and 2, also known as TEM8 and CMG2, are two type I membrane proteins, which have been extensively studied for their role as anthrax toxin receptors, but with a still elusive physiological function. Here we have analyzed the importance of N-glycosylation on folding, trafficking and ligand binding of these closely related proteins. We find that TEM8 has a stringent dependence on N-glycosylation. The presence of at least one glycan on each of its two extracellular domains, the vWA and Ig-like domains, is indeed necessary for efficient trafficking to the cell surface. In the absence of any N-linked glycans, TEM8 fails to fold correctly and is recognized by the ER quality control machinery. Expression of N-glycosylation mutants reveals that CMG2 is less vulnerable to sugar loss. The absence of N-linked glycans in one of the extracellular domains indeed has little impact on folding, trafficking or receptor function of the wild type protein expressed in tissue culture cells. N-glycans do, however, seem required in primary fibroblasts from human patients. Here, the presence of N-linked sugars increases the tolerance to mutations in cmg2 causing the rare genetic disease Hyaline Fibromatosis Syndrome. It thus appears that CMG2 glycosylation provides a buffer towards genetic variation by promoting folding of the protein in the ER lumen.
The arenavirus Lassa virus (LASV) causes a severe haemorrhagic fever with high mortality in man. The cellular receptor for LASV is dystroglycan (DG). DG is a ubiquitous receptor for extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, which cooperates with β1 integrins to control cell–matrix interactions. Here, we investigated whether LASV binding to DG triggers signal transduction, mimicking the natural ligands. Engagement of DG by LASV resulted in the recruitment of the adaptor protein Grb2 and the protein kinase MEK1 by the cytoplasmic domain of DG without activating the MEK/ERK pathway, indicating assembly of an inactive signalling complex. LASV binding to cells however affected the activation of the MEK/ERK pathway via α6β1 integrins. The virus-induced perturbation of α6β1 integrin signalling critically depended on high-affinity LASV binding to DG and DG’s cytoplasmic domain, indicating that LASV–receptor binding perturbed signalling cross-talk between DG and β1 integrins.
Information about the intermediate states in the oligomerization process of a pore-forming toxin is lacking. Two oligomerization-deficient mutants of aerolysin, a major virulence factor secreted by A. hydrophila, which is involved in gastrointestinal infections in humans, have been crystallized in their proteolyzed forms and their preliminary X-ray analysis is reported.
Aerolysin is a major virulence factor produced by the Gram-negative bacterium Aeromonas hydrophila and is a member of the β-pore-forming toxin family. Two oligomerization-deficient aerolysin mutants, H132D and H132N, have been overproduced, proteolyzed by trypsin digestion and purified. Crystals were grown from the proteolyzed forms and diffraction data were collected for the two mutants to 2.1 and 2.3 Å resolution, respectively. The prism-shaped crystals belonged to space group C2. The crystal structure of the mutants in the mature, but not heptameric, aerolysin form will provide insight into the intermediate states in the oligomerization process of a pore-forming toxin.
aerolysin; virulence factors; Aeromonas hydrophila
Throughout evolution, one of the most ancient forms of aggression between cells or organisms has been the production of proteins or peptides affecting the permeability of the target cell membrane. This class of virulence factors includes the largest family of bacterial toxins, the pore-forming toxins (PFTs). PFTs are bistable structures that can exist in a soluble and a transmembrane state. It is unclear what drives biosynthetic folding towards the soluble state, a requirement that is essential to protect the PFT-producing cell. Here we have investigated the folding of aerolysin, produced by the human pathogen Aeromonas hydrophila, and more specifically the role of the C-terminal propeptide (CTP). By combining the predictive power of computational techniques with experimental validation using both structural and functional approaches, we show that the CTP prevents aggregation during biosynthetic folding. We identified specific residues that mediate binding of the CTP to the toxin. We show that the CTP is crucial for the control of the aerolysin activity, since it protects individual subunits from aggregation within the bacterium and later controls assembly of the quaternary pore-forming complex at the surface of the target host cell. The CTP is the first example of a C-terminal chain-linked chaperone with dual function.
Many pathogenic bacteria produce proteins, called pore-forming toxins, designed to perforate the plasma membrane of target cells thus perturbing host cell integrity and functionality. It is, however, important that these toxins do not form pores in the producing bacterium. To prevent this, bacteria initially produce them in a soluble state. After being secreted by the bacterium, the toxin subsequently acquires – often through a multimerization step– the ability to insert into the membrane. Here we were interested in the mechanisms ensuring that the toxin initially folds into the soluble state. Using as an example aerolysin from the human pathogen Aeromonas hydrophila, we show that the bacterium produces the toxin with a C-terminal extension of about 45 amino acids that promotes the folding of the protein into the soluble state. We find that by mutating or removing this extension, the protein folds poorly or not at all. Addition of the peptide in trans however lead to partial recovery of activity suggesting that this extension promotes folding, and being intramolecular thus results in a very high effective concentration. In addition to this chaperone role for correctly folding the monomeric form of the toxin, the C-terminal peptide is also crucial for controlling the folding of the quaternary structure of the mature pore complex at the surface of the target host cell.
A number of bacterial virulence factors have been observed to adopt structures similar to that of aerolysin, the principal toxin of Aeromonas species. However, a comprehensive description of architecture and structure of the aerolysin-like superfamily has not been determined. In this study, we define a more compact aerolysin-like domain – or aerolysin fold – and show that this domain is far more widely spread than anticipated since it can be found throughout kingdoms. The aerolysin-fold could be found in very diverse domain and functional contexts, although a toxic function could often be assigned. Due to this diversity, the borders of the superfamily could not be set on a sequence level. As a border-defining member, we therefore chose pXO2-60 – a protein from the pathogenic pXO2 plasmid of Bacillus anthracis. This fascinating protein, which harbors a unique ubiquitin-like fold domain at the C-terminus of the aerolysin-domain, nicely illustrates the diversity of the superfamily. Its putative role in the virulence of B. anthracis and its three dimensional model are discussed.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) contributes to the immune evasion strategy of B. anthracis by impairing the function of cells of the immune system, such as macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs). Macrophages from certain inbred mice strains undergo rapid death upon LT treatment mediated by caspase-1 activation dependent on Nalp1b, an inflammasome component. Rapid LT-induced death is however not observed in macrophages from human and many mouse strains. Here, we focused on the responses of various murine DCs to LT. Using a variety of knock-out mice, we found that depending on the mouse strain, death of bone marrow derived DCs and macrophages was mediated either by a fast Nalp1b and caspase-1 dependent, or by a slow caspase-1 independent pathway that was triggered by the impairment of MEK1/2 pathways. Caspase-1 independent death was observed in cells of different genetic backgrounds and interestingly occurred only in immature DCs. Maturation, triggered by different types of stimuli, led to full protection of DCs. These studies illustrate that the cellular damage inflicted by LT depends not only on the innate responses but also on the maturation stage of the cell, which modulates the more general caspase-1 independent responses.
The anthrax toxin is a tripartite toxin, where the two enzymatic subunits require the third subunit, the protective antigen (PA), to interact with cells and be escorted to their cytoplasmic targets. PA binds to cells via one of two receptors, TEM8 and CMG2. Interestingly, the toxin times and triggers its own endocytosis, in particular through the heptamerization of PA. Here we show that PA triggers the ubiquitination of its receptors in a β-arrestin-dependent manner and that this step is required for clathrin-mediated endocytosis. In addition, we find that endocytosis is dependent on the heterotetrameric adaptor AP-1 but not the more conventional AP-2. Finally, we show that endocytosis of PA is strongly dependent on actin. Unexpectedly, actin was also found to be essential for efficient heptamerization of PA, but only when bound to one of its 2 receptors, TEM8, due to the active organization of TEM8 into actin-dependent domains. Endocytic pathways are highly modular systems. Here we identify some of the key players that allow efficient heptamerization of PA and subsequent ubiquitin-dependent, clathrin-mediated endocytosis of the anthrax toxin.
Bacillus anthracis is the bacterium responsible for the anthrax disease. Its virulence is mainly due to 2 factors, the anthrax toxin and the anti-phagocytic capsule. This toxin is composed of three independent polypeptide chains. Two of these have enzymatic activity and are responsible for the effects of the toxin. The third has no activity but is absolutely required to bring the 2 enzymatic subunits into the cell where they act. If one blocks entry into the cells, one blocks the effects of these toxins, which is why it is important to understand how the toxin enters into the cell at the molecular level. Here we identified various molecules that are involved in efficiently bringing the toxin into the cell. First, we found that the actin cytoskeleton plays an important role in organizing one of the two anthrax toxin receptors at the cell surface. Second, we found a cytosolic protein, β-arrestin, that is required to modify the intracellular part of the toxin receptor, to allow uptake. Finally, we directly show, for the first time, that anthrax toxin uptake is mediated by the so-called clathrin-dependent pathway, a very modular entry pathway, but that the toxin utilizes this pathway in an unconventional way.
Pore-forming toxins (PFTs) constitute the single largest class of proteinaceous bacterial virulence factors and are made by many of the most important bacterial pathogens. Host responses to these toxins are complex and poorly understood. We find that the endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response (UPR) is activated upon exposure to PFTs both in Caenorhabditis elegans and in mammalian cells. Activation of the UPR is protective in vivo against PFTs since animals that lack either the ire-1-xbp-1 or the atf-6 arms of the UPR are more sensitive to PFT than wild-type animals. The UPR acts directly in the cells targeted by the PFT. Loss of the UPR leads to a normal response against unrelated toxins or a pathogenic bacterium, indicating its PFT-protective role is specific. The p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAPK) kinase pathway has been previously shown to be important for cellular defenses against PFTs. We find here that the UPR is one of the key downstream targets of the p38 MAPK pathway in response to PFT since loss of a functional p38 MAPK pathway leads to a failure of PFT to properly activate the ire-1-xbp-1 arm of the UPR. The UPR-mediated activation and response to PFTs is distinct from the canonical UPR-mediated response to unfolded proteins both in terms of its activation and functional sensitivities. These data demonstrate that the UPR, a fundamental intracellular pathway, can operate in intrinsic cellular defenses against bacterial attack.
Pore-forming toxins (PFTs) are bacterial toxins that form holes at the plasma membrane of cells and play an important role in the pathogenesis of many important human pathogens. Although PFTs comprise an important and the single largest class of bacterial protein virulence factors, how cells respond to these toxins has been understudied. We describe here the surprising discovery that a fundamental pathway of eukaryotic cell biology, the endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response (UPR), is activated by pore-forming toxins in Caenorhabditis elegans and mammalian cells. We find that this activation is functionally important since loss of either of two of the three arms of UPR leads to hypersensitivity of the nematode to attack by PFTs. The response of the UPR to PFTs can be separated from its response to unfolded proteins both at the level of activation and functional relevance. The response of the UPR to PFTs is dependent on a central pathway of cellular immunity, the p38 MAPK pathway. Our data show that the response of cells to bacterial attack can reveal unanticipated uses and connections between fundamental cell biological pathways.
After internalization, ubiquitinated signaling receptors are delivered to early endosomes. There, they are sorted and incorporated into the intralumenal invaginations of nascent multivesicular bodies, which function as transport intermediates to late endosomes. Receptor sorting is achieved by Hrs—an adaptor-like protein that binds membrane PtdIns3P via a FYVE motif—and then by ESCRT complexes, which presumably also mediate the invagination process. Eventually, intralumenal vesicles are delivered to lysosomes, leading to the notion that EGF receptor sorting into multivesicular bodies mediates lysosomal targeting. Here, we report that Hrs is essential for lysosomal targeting but dispensable for multivesicular body biogenesis and transport to late endosomes. By contrast, we find that the PtdIns3P-binding protein SNX3 is required for multivesicular body formation, but not for EGF receptor degradation. PtdIns3P thus controls the complementary functions of Hrs and SNX3 in sorting and multivesicular body biogenesis.
The cell's genetic program is modulated by extracellular signals that activate cell surface receptors and, in turn, intracellular effectors, to regulate transcription. For cells to function normally, these signals must be turned off to avoid permanent activation—a situation often associated with cancer. For many receptors, signaling is repressed, or down-regulated, in a process that first internalizes and then degrades the receptors. After receptors are removed from the cell surface into structures called early endosomes, they are selectively incorporated within vesicles that form inside the endosome. During this process, endosomal membranes are pulled away from the cytoplasm towards the endosome lumen, against the flow of intracellular membrane traffic, eventually resulting in the formation of a “multivesicular body” (vesicles within vesicles). The common view is that these intralumenal vesicles are then delivered to lysosomes, where they are degraded along with their receptor cargo. We have investigated the mechanisms responsible for the biogenesis of intralumenal vesicles in multivesicular bodies. We find that the small protein SNX3, which binds the signaling lipid phosphatidyl inositol-3-phosphate, is necessary for the formation of intralumenal vesicles, but is not involved in the degradation of the cell surface receptor for EGF. Conversely, we find that Hrs, which also binds phosphatidyl inositol-3-phosphate and mediates receptor sorting into intralumenal vesicles, is essential for lysosomal targeting but dispensable for multivesicular body biogenesis. Phosphatidyl inositol-3-phosphate thus controls the complementary functions of Hrs and SNX3 in the sorting of signaling receptors and multivesicular body biogenesis.
SNX3 plays a direct role in the formation of intralumenal vesicles of multivesicular bodies (MVBs) but is not involved in EGF receptor degradation, whereas Hrs is essential for lysosomal targeting but dispensable for MVB biogenesis. Hence, intralumenal vesicle formation in MVB biogenesis can be uncoupled from lysosomal targeting.
The lumen of endosomal organelles becomes increasingly acidic when going from the cell surface to lysosomes. Luminal pH thereby regulates important processes such as the release of internalized ligands from their receptor or the activation of lysosomal enzymes. The main player in endosomal acidification is the vacuolar ATPase (V-ATPase), a multi-subunit transmembrane complex that pumps protons from the cytoplasm to the lumen of organelles, or to the outside of the cell. The active V-ATPase is composed of two multi-subunit domains, the transmembrane V0 and the cytoplasmic V1. Here we found that the ratio of membrane associated V1/Vo varies along the endocytic pathway, the relative abundance of V1 being higher on late endosomes than on early endosomes, providing an explanation for the higher acidity of late endosomes. We also found that all membrane-bound V-ATPase subunits were associated with detergent resistant membranes (DRM) isolated from late endosomes, raising the possibility that association with lipid-raft like domains also plays a role in regulating the activity of the proton pump. In support of this, we found that treatment of cells with U18666A, a drug that leads to the accumulation of cholesterol in late endosomes, affected acidification of late endosome. Altogether our findings indicate that the activity of the vATPase in the endocytic pathway is regulated both by reversible association/dissociation and the interaction with specific lipid environments.
Pathological accumulation of cholesterol in late endosomes is observed in lysosomal storage diseases such as Niemann-Pick type C. We here analyzed the effects of cholesterol accumulation in NPC cells, or as phenocopied by the drug U18666A, on late endosomes membrane organization and dynamics.
Cholesterol accumulation did not lead to an increase in the raft to non-raft membrane ratio as anticipated. Strikingly, we observed a 2–3 fold increase in the size of the compartment. Most importantly, properties and dynamics of late endosomal intralumenal vesicles were altered as revealed by reduced late endosomal vacuolation induced by the mutant pore-forming toxin ASSP, reduced intoxication by the anthrax lethal toxin and inhibition of infection by the Vesicular Stomatitis Virus.
These results suggest that back fusion of intralumenal vesicles with the limiting membrane of late endosomes is dramatically perturbed upon cholesterol accumulation.
Late endosomes, the last sorting station in the endocytic pathway before lysosomes, are pleiomorphic organelles composed of tubular elements as well as vesicular regions with a characteristic multivesicular appearance, which play a crucial role in intracellular trafficking. Here, we have investigated whether, in addition to these morphologically distinguishable regions, late endosomal membranes are additionally sub-compartmentalized into membrane microdomains.
Using sub-organellar fractionation techniques, both with and without detergents, combined with electron microscopy, we found that both the limiting membrane of the organel and the intraluminal vesicles contain raft-type membrane domains. Interestingly, these differentially localized domains vary in protein composition and physico-chemical properties.
In addition to the multivesicular organization, we find that late endosomes contain cholesterol rich microdomains both on their limiting membrane and their intraluminal vesicles that differ in composition and properties. Implications of these findings for late endosomal functions are discussed.
The anthrax toxin is composed of three independent polypeptide chains. Successful intoxication only occurs when heptamerization of the receptor-binding polypeptide, the protective antigen (PA), allows binding of the two enzymatic subunits before endocytosis. We show that this tailored behavior is caused by two counteracting posttranslational modifications in the cytoplasmic tail of PA receptors. The receptor is palmitoylated, and this unexpectedly prevents its association with lipid rafts and, thus, its premature ubiquitination. This second modification, which is mediated by the E3 ubiquitin ligase Cbl, only occurs in rafts and is required for rapid endocytosis of the receptor. As a consequence, cells expressing palmitoylation-defective mutant receptors are less sensitive to anthrax toxin because of a lower number of surface receptors as well as premature internalization of PA without a requirement for heptamerization.
The protective antigen (PA) of anthrax toxin binds to a cell surface receptor, undergoes heptamerization, and binds the enzymatic subunits, the lethal factor (LF) and the edema factor (EF). The resulting complex is then endocytosed. Via mechanisms that depend on the vacuolar ATPase and require membrane insertion of PA, LF and EF are ultimately delivered to the cytoplasm where their targets reside. Here, we show that membrane insertion of PA already occurs in early endosomes, possibly only in the multivesicular regions, but that subsequent delivery of LF to the cytoplasm occurs preferentially later in the endocytic pathway and relies on the dynamics of internal vesicles of multivesicular late endosomes.
diphtheria toxin; LBPA; ALIX; MAPK; multivesicular; COP
Integrin α2β1 mediates the binding of several epithelial and mesenchymal cell types to collagen. The composition of the surrounding plasma membrane, especially caveolin-1- and cholesterol-containing membrane structures called caveolae, may be important to integrin signaling. On cell surface α2β1 integrin was located in the raft like membrane domain, rich in GPI-anchored proteins, rather than in caveolae. However, when antibodies were used to generate clusters of α2β1 integrin, they started to move laterally on cell surface along actin filaments. During the lateral movement small clusters fused together. Finally α2β1 integrin was found inside caveolae and subsequently internalized into caveosome-like perinuclear structures. The internalization process, unlike cluster formation or lateral redistribution, was dependent on protein kinase Cα activity. Caveolae are known to be highly immobile structures and α2β1 integrin clusters represent a previously unknown mechanism to activate endocytic trafficking via caveolae. The process was specific to α2β1 integrin, because the antibody-mediated formation of αV integrin clusters activated their internalization in coated vesicles and early endosomes. In addition to natural ligands human echovirus-1 (EV1) gains entry into the cell by binding to α2β1 and taking advantage of α2β1 internalization via caveolae.
The protective antigen (PA) of the anthrax toxin binds to a cell surface receptor and thereby allows lethal factor (LF) to be taken up and exert its toxic effect in the cytoplasm. Here, we report that clustering of the anthrax toxin receptor (ATR) with heptameric PA or with an antibody sandwich causes its association to specialized cholesterol and glycosphingolipid-rich microdomains of the plasma membrane (lipid rafts). We find that although endocytosis of ATR is slow, clustering it into rafts either via PA heptamerization or using an antibody sandwich is necessary and sufficient to trigger efficient internalization and allow delivery of LF to the cytoplasm. Importantly, altering raft integrity using drugs prevented LF delivery and cleavage of cytosolic MAPK kinases, suggesting that lipid rafts could be therapeutic targets for drugs against anthrax. Moreover, we show that internalization of PA is dynamin and Eps15 dependent, indicating that the clathrin-dependent pathway is the major route of anthrax toxin entry into the cell. The present work illustrates that although the physiological role of the ATR is unknown, its trafficking properties, i.e., slow endocytosis as a monomer and rapid clathrin-mediated uptake on clustering, make it an ideal anthrax toxin receptor.
anthrax toxin; rafts; microdomains; clustering; protective antigen
Aerolysin is one of the major virulence factors produced by Aeromonas hydrophila, a human pathogen that produces deep wound infection and gastroenteritis. The toxin interacts with target mammalian cells by binding to the glycan core of glycosylphosphatidyl inositol (GPI)-anchored proteins and subsequently forms a pore in the plasma membrane. Since epithelial cells of the intestine are the primary targets of aerolysin, we investigated its effect on three types of polarized epithelial cells: Caco-2 cells, derived from human intestine; MDCK cells, a well-characterized cell line in terms of protein targeting; and FRT cells, an unusual cell line in that it targets its GPI-anchored proteins to the basolateral plasma membrane in contrast to other epithelial cells, which target them almost exclusively to the apical surface. Surprisingly, we found that all three cell types were sensitive to the toxin from both the apical and the basolateral sides. Apical sensitivity was always higher, even for FRT cells. In contrast, FRT cells were more sensitive from the basolateral than from the apical side to the related toxin Clostridium septicum alpha-toxin, which also binds to GPI-anchored proteins but lacks the lectin binding domain found in aerolysin. These observations are consistent with the notion that a shuttling mechanism involving low-affinity interactions with surface sugars allows aerolysin to gradually move toward the membrane surface, where it can finally encounter the glycan cores of GPI-anchored proteins.
It has been proposed that the plasma membrane of many cell types contains cholesterol-sphingolipid–rich microdomains. Here, we analyze the role of these microdomains in promoting oligomerization of the bacterial pore-forming toxin aerolysin. Aeroly-sin binds to cells, via glycosyl phosphatidylinositol- anchored receptors, as a hydrophilic soluble protein that must polymerize into an amphipathic ring-like complex to form a pore. We first show that oligomerization can occur at >105-fold lower toxin concentration at the surface of living cells than in solution. Our observations indicate that it is not merely the number of receptors on the target cell that is important for toxin sensitivity, but their ability to associate transiently with detergent resistant microdomains. Oligomerization appears to be promoted by the fact that the toxin bound to its glycosyl phosphatidylinositol-anchored receptors, can be recruited into these microdomains, which act as concentration devices.
aerolysin; cholesterol; microdomains; glycosyl phosphatidylinositol-anchored protein; oligomerization