The multifunctional-autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxins are bacterial protein toxins that serve as delivery platforms for cytotoxic effector domains. The domain of unknown function in position 5 (DUF5) effector domain is present in at least six different species' MARTX toxins and as a hypothetical protein in Photorhabdus spp. Its presence increases the potency of the Vibrio vulnificus MARTX toxin in mouse virulence studies, indicating DUF5 directly contributes to pathogenesis. In this work, DUF5 is shown to be cytotoxic when transiently expressed in HeLa cells. DUF5 localized to the plasma membrane dependent upon its C1 domain and the cells become rounded dependent upon its C2 domain. Both full-length DUF5 and the C2 domain caused growth inhibition when expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. A structural model of DUF5 was generated based on the structure of Pasteurella multocida toxin facilitating localization of the cytotoxic activity to a 186 amino acid subdomain termed C2A. Within this subdomain, an alanine scanning mutagenesis revealed aspartate-3721 and arginine-3841 as residues critical for cytotoxicity. These residues were also essential for HeLa cell intoxication when purified DUF5 fused to anthrax toxin lethal factor was delivered cytosolically. Thermal shift experiments indicated that these conserved residues are important to maintain protein structure, rather than for catalysis. The Aeromonas hydrophila MARTX toxin DUF5(Ah) domain was also cytotoxic, while the weakly conserved C1-C2 domains from P. multocida toxin were not. Overall, this study is the first demonstration that DUF5 as found in MARTX toxins has cytotoxic activity that depends on conserved residues in the C2A subdomain.
Vibrio vulnificus is a seafood-associated pathogen that causes severe wound and intestinal infections. Biotype 3 of V. vulnificus emerged in 1996 as the cause of an Israeli outbreak associated with the handling of infected tilapia. Here, we describe the whole-genome sequence of the ATCC biotype 3 clinical isolate BAA87 (CDC9530-96).
Vibrio vulnificus is an environmental organism that causes both food-borne and wound infections with high morbidity and mortality in humans. The annual incidence and global distribution of infections associated with this pathogen are increasing with climate change. In the late 1990s, an outbreak of tilapia-associated wound infections in Israel was linked to a previously unrecognized variant of V. vulnificus designated biotype 3. The sudden emergence and clonality of the outbreak suggest that this strain may be a true newly emergent pathogen with novel virulence properties compared to those of other V. vulnificus strains. In a subcutaneous infection model to mimic wound infection, the multifunctional autoprocessing RTX (MARTX) toxin of biotype 3 strains was shown to be an essential virulence factor contributing to highly inflammatory skin wounds with severe damage affecting every tissue layer. We conducted a sequencing-based analysis of the MARTX toxin and found that biotype 3 MARTX toxin has an effector domain structure distinct from that of either biotype 1 or biotype 2. Of the two new domains identified, a domain similar to Pseudomonas aeruginosa ExoY was shown to confer adenylate cyclase activity on the MARTX toxin. This is the first demonstration that the biotype 3 MARTX toxin is essential for virulence and that the ExoY-like MARTX effector domain is a catalytically active adenylate cyclase.
The innate immune response to Vibrio cholerae infection is poorly understood, but this knowledge is critical for the design of safe, effective vaccines. Using an adult mouse intestinal infection model, this study examines the contribution of neutrophils to host immunity, as well as the effect of cholera toxin and other secreted factors on this response. Depletion of neutrophils from mice with anti-Ly6G IA8 monoclonal antibody led to similar survival rates of mice infected with low or moderate doses of toxigenic V. cholerae El Tor O1. At a high dose, neutropenic mice showed increased rates of survival compared to neutrophil-replete animals. Expression of cholera toxin was found to be protective to the neutropenic host, and this phenotype can be replicated by the administration of purified toxin. Neutrophils do not effectively clear colonizing bacteria from the small intestine, nor do they alter induction of early immune-modulating signals. In both neutropenic and neutrophil-replete animals, the local response to infection is characterized by expression of interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-10, and macrophage inflammatory protein 2 alpha (MIP-2). Overall, these data indicate that the innate immune response to toxigenic V. cholerae infection differs dramatically from the host response to nontoxigenic infection or vaccination, where neutrophils are protective to the host. In the absence of neutrophils, cholera toxin induces immunomodulatory effects that increase host survival. In cholera toxin-producing strains, similar to nontoxigenic infection, accessory toxins are critical to virulence, indicating that cholera toxin and the other secreted toxins modulate the host response by different mechanisms, with both contributing to bacterial persistence and virulence.
Vibrio cholerae genome sequences were analyzed for variation in the rtxA gene that encodes the multifunctional autoprocessing RTX (MARTX) toxin. To accommodate genomic analysis, a discrepancy in the annotated rtxA start site was resolved experimentally. The correct start site is an ATG downstream from rtxC resulting in a gene of 13,638 bp and deduced protein of 4,545 amino acids. Among the El Tor O1 and closely related O139 and O37 genomes, rtxA was highly conserved, with nine alleles differing by only 1 to 6 nucleotides in 100 years. In contrast, 12 alleles from environment-associated isolates are highly variable, at 1 to 3% by nucleotide and 3 to 7% by amino acid. The difference in variation rates did not represent a bias for conservation of the El Tor rtxA compared to that of other strains but rather reflected the lack of gene variation in overall genomes. Three alleles were identified that would affect the function of the MARTX toxin. Two environmental isolates carry novel arrangements of effector domains. These include a variant from RC385 that would suggest an adenylate cyclase toxin and from HE-09 that may have actin ADP-ribosylating activity. Within the recently emerged altered El Tor strains that have a classical ctxB gene, a mutation arose in rtxA that introduces a premature stop codon that disabled toxin function. This null mutant is the genetic background for subsequent emergence of the ctxB7 allele resulting in the strain that spread into Haiti in 2010. Thus, similar to classical strains, the altered El Tor pandemic strains eliminated rtxA after acquiring a classical ctxB.
(1)H, (13)C, and (15)N chemical shift assignments are presented for the isolated four-helical bundle membrane localization domain from the domain of unknown function 5 (DUF5) effector (MLDVvDUF5) of the MARTX toxin from Vibrio vulnificus in its solution state. We have assigned 97 % of all backbone and side-chain carbon atoms, including 96 % of all backbone residues. Secondary chemical shift analysis using TALOS+ demonstrates four helices that align with those predicted by structure homology modeling using the MLDs of Pasteurella multocida toxin (PMT) and the clostridial TcdB and TcsL toxins as templates. Future studies will be towards solving the structure and determining the dynamics in the solution state.
(1)H, (13)C, and (15)N chemical shift assignments are presented for the isolated four-helical bundle membrane localization domain (MLD) from Pasteurella multocida toxin (PMT) in its solution state. We have assigned 99 % of all backbone and side-chain carbon atoms, including 99 % of all backbone residues excluding proline amide nitrogens. Secondary chemical shift analysis using TALOS+ demonstrates four helices, which align with those observed within the MLD in the crystal structure of the C-terminus of PMT (PDB 2EBF) and confirm the use of the available crystal structures as templates for the isolated MLDs.
Tularemia is a deadly, febrile disease caused by infection by the gram-negative bacterium, Francisella tularensis. Members of the ubiquitous serine hydrolase protein family are among current targets to treat diverse bacterial infections. Herein we present a structural and functional study of a novel bacterial carboxylesterase (FTT258) from F. tularensis, a homologue of human acyl protein thioesterase (hAPT1). The structure of FTT258 has been determined in multiple forms, and unexpectedly large conformational changes of a peripheral flexible loop occur in the presence of a mechanistic cyclobutanone ligand. The concomitant changes in this hydrophobic loop and the newly exposed hydrophobic substrate binding pocket suggest that the observed structural changes are essential to the biological function and catalytic activity of FTT258. Using diverse substrate libraries, site-directed mutagenesis, and liposome binding assays, we determined the importance of these structural changes to the catalytic activity and membrane binding activity of FTT258. Residues within the newly exposed hydrophobic binding pocket and within the peripheral flexible loop proved essential to the hydrolytic activity of FTT258, indicating that structural rearrangement is required for catalytic activity. Both FTT258 and hAPT1 also showed significant association with liposomes designed to mimic bacterial or human membranes, respectively, even though similar structural rearrangements for hAPT1 have not been reported. The necessity for acyl protein thioesterases to have maximal catalytic activity near the membrane surface suggests that these conformational changes in the protein may dually regulate catalytic activity and membrane association in bacterial and human homologues.
Plasma membrane targeting is essential for the proper function of many bacterial toxins. A conserved fourhelical bundle membrane localization domain (4HBM) was recently identified within three diverse families of toxins: clostridial glucosylating toxins, MARTX toxins and Pasteurella multocida-like toxins. When expressed in tissue culture cells or in yeast, GFP fusions to at least one 4HBM from each toxin family show significant peripheral membrane localization but with differing profiles. Both in vivo expression and in vitro binding studies reveal that the ability of these domains to localize to the plasma membrane and bind negatively charged phospholipids requires a basic-hydrophobic motif formed by the L1 and L3 loops. The different binding capacity of each 4HBM is defined by the hydrophobicity of an exposed residue within the motif. This study establishes that bacterial effectors utilize a normal host cell mechanism to locate the plasma membrane where they can then access their intracellular targets.
The Repeats-in-Toxins (RTX) family of proteins classically consists of cytolysins and hemolysins. Over the past decade, genome sequencing revealed the existence of very large members of this family. These are all repetitive proteins ranging in size from 200 to 900 kDa that function as toxins or adhesins. Many are exported by Type I secretion. One major new subfamily is the large repetitive RTX adhesins and biofilm-associated proteins. These are characterized by 80- to 300-amino-acid repeats ordered in tandem, although the sequence and number of the repeats vary by protein. The second major new subfamily is the multifunctional-autoprocessing RTX toxins, which are associated with cytotoxicity and pathogenesis. These proteins are in turn distantly related to Yersinia hypothetical RTX proteins that may autoprocess by a similar mechanism. This review discusses current knowledge regarding the structure and function of these new subfamilies of RTX proteins.
Vibrio vulnificus is a food-borne bacterial pathogen associated with 1% of all food-related deaths, predominantly because of consumption of contaminated seafood. The ability of V. vulnificus to cause disease is linked to the production of a large cytotoxin called the "multifunctional-autoprocessing RTX" (MARTX(Vv)) toxin, a factor shown here to be an important virulence factor by the intragastric route of infection in mice. In this study, we examined genetic variation of the rtxA1 gene that encodes MARTX(Vv) in 40 V. vulnificus Biotype 1 strains and found four distinct variants of rtxA1 that encode toxins with different arrangements of effector domains. We provide evidence that these variants arose by recombination either with rtxA genes carried on plasmids or with the rtxA gene of Vibrio anguillarum. Contrary to expected results, the most common rtxA1 gene variant in clinical-type V. vulnificus encodes a toxin with reduced potency and is distinct from the toxin produced by strains isolated from market oysters. These results indicate that an important virulence factor of V. vulnificus is undergoing significant genetic rearrangement and may be subject to selection for reduced virulence in the environment. This finding would imply further that in the future on-going genetic variation of the MARTX(Vv) toxins could result in the emergence of novel strains with altered virulence in humans.
Large bacterial protein toxins autotranslocate functional effector domains to the eukaryotic cell cytosol, resulting in alterations to cellular functions that ultimately benefit the infecting pathogen. Among these toxins, the clostridial glucosylating toxins (CGTs) produced by Gram-positive bacteria and the multifunctional-autoprocessing RTX (MARTX) toxins of Gram-negative bacteria have distinct mechanisms for effector translocation, but a shared mechanism of post-translocation autoprocessing that releases these functional domains from the large holotoxins. These toxins carry an embedded cysteine protease domain (CPD) that is activated for autoprocessing by binding inositol hexakisphosphate (InsP(6)), a molecule found exclusively in eukaryotic cells. Thus, InsP(6)-induced autoprocessing represents a unique mechanism for toxin effector delivery specifically within the target cell. This review summarizes recent studies of the structural and molecular events for activation of autoprocessing for both CGT and MARTX toxins, demonstrating both similar and potentially distinct aspects of autoprocessing among the toxins that utilize this method of activation and effector delivery.
Vibrio cholerae is the causative agent of the diarrheal disease cholera. Many virulence factors contribute to intestinal colonization and disease including the Multifunctional Autoprocessing RTX toxin (MARTX(Vc)). The Rho-inactivation domain (RID) of MARTX(Vc) is responsible for inactivating the Rho-family of small GTPases, which leads to depolymerization of the actin cytoskeleton. Based on a deletion analysis of RID to determine the minimal functional domain, we have identified a subdomain at the N terminus of RID that is homologous to the membrane targeting C1 domain of Pasteurella multocida toxin. A GFP fusion to this subdomain from RID colocalized with a plasma membrane marker when transiently expressed within HeLa cells and can be found in the membrane fraction following subcellular fractionation. This C1-like subdomain is present in multiple families of bacterial toxins, including all of the clostridial glucosyltransferase toxins and various MARTX toxins. GFP-fusions to these homologous domains are also membrane associated, indicating that this is a conserved membrane localization domain (MLD). We have identified three residues (Y23, S68, R70) as necessary for proper localization of one but not all MLDs. In addition, we found that substitution of the RID MLD with the MLDs from two different effector domains from the Vibrio vulnificus MARTX toxin restored RID activity, indicating that there is functional overlap between these MLDs. This study describes the initial recognition of a family of conserved plasma membrane-targeting domains found in multiple large bacterial toxins.
Vibrio cholerae colonizes the small intestine of adult C57BL/6 mice. In this study, the physical and genetic parameters that facilitate this colonization were investigated. Successful colonization was found to depend upon anesthesia with ketamine-xylazine and neutralization of stomach acid with sodium bicarbonate, but not streptomycin treatment. A variety of common mouse strains were colonized by O1, O139, and non-O1/non-O139 strains. All combinations of mutants in the genes for hemolysin, the multifunctional, autoprocessing RTX toxin (MARTX), and hemagglutinin/protease were assessed, and it was found that hemolysin and MARTX are each sufficient for colonization after a low dose infection. Overall, this study suggests that, after intragastric inoculation, V. cholerae encounters barriers to infection including an acidic environment and an immediate immune response that is circumvented by sodium bicarbonate and the anti-inflammatory effects of ketamine-xylazine. After initial adherence in the small intestine, the bacteria are subjected to additional clearance mechanisms that are evaded by the independent toxic action of hemolysin or MARTX. Once colonization is established, it is suggested that, in humans, these now persisting bacteria initiate synthesis of the major virulence factors to cause cholera disease. This adult mouse model of intestinal V. cholerae infection, now well-characterized and fully optimized, should serve as a valuable tool for studies of pathogenesis and testing vaccine efficacy.
Vibrio cholerae is a motile bacterium responsible for the disease cholera, and motility has been hypothesized to be inversely regulated with virulence. We examined the transcription profiles of V. cholerae strains containing mutations in flagellar regulatory genes (rpoN, flrA, flrC, and fliA) by utilizing whole-genome microarrays. Results revealed that flagellar transcription is organized into a four-tiered hierarchy. Additionally, genes with proven or putative roles in virulence (e.g., ctx, tcp, hemolysin, and type VI secretion genes) were upregulated in flagellar regulatory mutants, which was confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR. Flagellar regulatory mutants exhibit increased hemolysis of human erythrocytes, which was due to increased transcription of the thermolabile hemolysin (tlh). The flagellar regulatory system positively regulates transcription of a diguanylate cyclase, CdgD, which in turn regulates transcription of a novel hemagglutinin (frhA) that mediates adherence to chitin and epithelial cells and enhances biofilm formation and intestinal colonization in infant mice. Our results demonstrate that the flagellar regulatory system modulates the expression of nonflagellar genes, with induction of an adhesin that facilitates colonization within the intestine and repression of virulence factors maximally induced following colonization. These results suggest that the flagellar regulatory hierarchy facilitates correct spatiotemporal expression patterns for optimal V. cholerae colonization and disease progression.
Actin cross-linking domains (ACDs) are distinct domains found in several bacterial toxins, including the Vibrio cholerae MARTX toxin. The ACD of V. cholerae (ACD(Vc)) catalyses the formation of an irreversible iso-peptide bond between lysine 50 and glutamic acid 270 on two actin molecules in an ATP- and Mg/Mn(2+)-dependent manner. In vivo, cross-linking depletes the cellular pool of G-actin leading to actin cytoskeleton depolymerization. While the actin cross-linking reaction performed by these effector domains has been significantly characterized, the ACD(Vc) catalytic site has remained elusive due to lack of significant homology to known proteins. Using multiple genetic approaches, we have identified regions and amino acids of ACD(Vc) required for full actin cross-linking activity. Then, using these functional data and structural homology predictions, it was determined that several residues demonstrated to be important for ACD(Vc) activity are conserved with active-site residues of the glutamine synthetase family of enzymes. Thus, the ACDs are a family of bacterial toxin effectors that may be evolutionarily related to ligases involved in amino acid biosynthesis.
The multifunctional autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxin of Vibrio cholerae causes destruction of the actin cytoskeleton by covalent cross-linking of actin and inactivation of Rho GTPases. The effector domains responsible for these activities are here shown to be independent proteins released from the large toxin by autoproteolysis catalyzed by an embedded cysteine protease domain (CPD). The CPD is activated upon binding inositol hexakisphosphate (InsP(6)). In this study, we demonstrated that InsP(6) is not simply an allosteric cofactor, but rather binding of InsP(6) stabilized the CPD structure, facilitating formation of the enzyme-substrate complex. The 1.95-A crystal structure of this InsP(6)-bound unprocessed form of CPD was determined and revealed the scissile bond Leu(3428)-Ala(3429) captured in the catalytic site. Upon processing at this site, CPD was converted to a form with 500-fold reduced affinity for InsP(6), but was reactivated for high affinity binding of InsP(6) by cooperative binding of both a new substrate and InsP(6). Reactivation of CPD allowed cleavage of the MARTX toxin at other sites, specifically at leucine residues between the effector domains. Processed CPD also cleaved other proteins in trans, including the leucine-rich protein YopM, demonstrating that it is a promiscuous leucine-specific protease.
Actin crosslinking toxins produced by Gram-negative bacteria represent a small but unique class of bacterial protein toxins. For each of these toxins, a discrete actin crosslinking domain (ACD) that is a distant member of the ATP-dependent glutamine synthetase family of protein ligases is translocated to the eukaryotic cell cytosol. This domain then incorporates a glutamate-lysine crosslink between actin monomers, resulting in destruction of the actin cytoskeleton. Recent studies argue that the function of these toxins during infection is not destruction of epithelial layers, but rather may specifically target phagocytic cells to promote survival of bacteria after the onset of innate immune defenses. This review will summarize key experiments performed over the past 10 years to reveal the function of these toxins.
To colonize during disease and prevent consumption by environmental unicellular eukaryotes, bacteria often disrupt phagocytosis. In this issue, Ma et al. (2009) show that Vibrio cholerae delivers the actin-crosslinking T6SS effector VgrG-1 following phagocytosis. The effector then causes irreversible cytoskeleton destruction, leading to bystander protection of the extracellular bacterial population.
Vibrio cholerae is the causative agent of the severe diarrheal disease cholera. For V. cholerae to colonize the intestinal epithelium, accessory toxins such as the multifunctional autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX(Vc)) toxin are required. MARTX toxins are composite toxins comprised of arrayed effector domains that carry out distinct functions inside the host cell. Among the three effector domains of MARTX(Vc) is the Rho inactivation domain (RID(Vc)) known to cause cell rounding through inactivation of small RhoGTPases. Using alanine scanning mutagenesis in the activity subdomain of RID(Vc), four residues, His-2782, Leu-2851, Asp-2854, and Cys-3022, were identified as impacting RID(Vc) function in depolymerization of the actin cytoskeleton and inactivation of RhoA. Tyr-2807 and Tyr-3015 were identified as important potentially for forming the active structure for substrate contact but are not involved in catalysis or post translational modifications. Finally, V. cholerae strains modified to carry a catalytically inactive RID(Vc) show that the rate and efficiency of MARTX(Vc) actin cross-linking activity does not depend on a functional RID(Vc), demonstrating that these domains function independently in actin depolymerization. Overall, our results indicate a His-Asp-Cys catalytic triad is essential for function of the RID effector domain family shared by MARTX toxins produced by many Gram-negative bacteria.
Cholera is classically considered a noninflammatory diarrheal disease, in comparison to invasive enteric organisms, although there is a low-level proinflammatory response during early infection with Vibrio cholerae and a strong proinflammatory reaction to live attenuated vaccine strains. Using an adult mouse intestinal infection model, this study examines the contribution of neutrophils to host defense to infection. Nontoxigenic El Tor O1 V. cholerae infection is characterized by the upregulation of interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-10, and macrophage inflammatory protein 2 alpha in the intestine, indicating an acute innate immune response. Depletion of neutrophils from mice with anti-Ly6G IA8 monoclonal antibody led to decreased survival of mice. The role of neutrophils in protection of the host is to limit the infection to the intestine and control bacterial spread to extraintestinal organs. In the absence of neutrophils, the infection spread to the spleen and led to increased systemic levels of IL-1? and tumor necrosis factor alpha, suggesting the decreased survival in neutropenic mice is due to systemic shock. Neutrophils were found not to contribute to either clearance of colonizing bacteria or to alter the local immune response. However, when genes for secreted accessory toxins were deleted, the colonizing bacteria were cleared from the intestine, and this clearance is dependent upon neutrophils. Thus, the requirement for accessory toxins in virulence is negated in neutropenic mice, which is consistent with a role of accessory toxins in the evasion of innate immune cells in the intestine. Overall, these data support that neutrophils impact disease progression and suggest that neutrophil effectiveness can be manipulated through the deletion of accessory toxins.
Vibrio vulnificus is a pathogen that causes both severe necrotizing wound infections and life-threatening food-borne infections. Food-borne infection is particularly lethal as the infection can progress rapidly to primary septicemia resulting in death from septic shock and multiorgan failure. In this study, we use both bioluminescence whole animal imaging and V. vulnificus bacterial colonization of orally infected mice to demonstrate that the secreted multifunctional-autoprocessing RTX toxin (MARTX(Vv)) and the cytolysin/hemolysin VvhA of clinical isolate CMCP6 have an important function in the gut to promote early in vivo growth and dissemination of this pathogen from the small intestine to other organs. Using histopathology, we find that both cytotoxins can cause villi disruption, epithelial necrosis, and inflammation in the mouse small intestine. A double mutant deleted of genes for both cytotoxins was essentially avirulent, did not cause intestinal epithelial tissue damage, and was cleared from infected mice by 36 hours by an effective immune response. Therefore, MARTX(Vv) and VvhA seem to play an additive role for pathogenesis of CMCP6 causing intestinal tissue damage and inflammation that then promotes dissemination of the infecting bacteria to the bloodstream and other organs. In the absence of these two secreted factors, we propose that this bacterium is unable to cause intestinal infection in humans.
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