Membrane Localization of the Repeats-in-Toxin (RTX) Leukotoxin (LtxA) Produced by Aggregatibacter Actinomycetemcomitans

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Brown, Angela C.
Boesze-Battaglia, Kathleen
Balashova, Nataliya V.
Gomez, Nestor Mas
Speicher, Kaye
Tang, Hsin-Yao
Duszyk, Margaret E.
Lally, Edward T.

The oral bacterium, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, which is associated with localized aggressive periodontitis, as well as systemic infections including endocarditis, produces numerous virulence factors, including a repeats-in-toxin (RTX) protein called leukotoxin (LtxA), which kills human immune cells. The strains of A. actinomycetemcomitans most closely associated with disease have been shown to produce the most LtxA, suggesting that LtxA plays a significant role in the virulence of this organism. LtxA, like many of the RTX toxins, can be divided into four functional domains: an N-terminal hydrophobic domain, which contains a significant fraction of hydrophobic residues and has been proposed to play a role in the membrane interaction of the toxin; the central domain, which contains two lysine residues that are the sites of post-translational acylation; the repeat domain that is characteristic of the RTX toxins, and a C-terminal domain thought to be involved in secretion. In its initial interaction with the host cell, LtxA must bind to both cholesterol and an integrin receptor, lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1). While both interactions are essential for toxicity, the domains of LtxA involved remain unknown. We therefore undertook a series of experiments, including tryptophan quenching and trypsin digestion, to characterize the structure of LtxA upon interaction with membranes of various lipid compositions. Our results demonstrate that LtxA adopts a U-shaped conformation in the membrane, with the N- and C-terminal domains residing outside of the membrane. © 2018 Brown et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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