ABSTRACT: 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-?-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.
Project description:The Gram-positive spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis causes anthrax by secreting anthrax toxin, which consists of protective antigen (PA), lethal factor and oedema factor. Binding of PA to receptors triggers the multi-step process of anthrax toxin entry into target cells. Two distinct cellular receptors, ANTXR1 (also known as tumour endothelial marker 8; TEM8) and ANTXR2 (also known as capillary morphogenesis protein 2; CMG2), for anthrax toxin have been identified. Although the crystal structure of the extracellular von Willebrand factor A (vWA) domain of CMG2 has been reported, the difference between the vWA domains of TEM8 and CMG2 remains unclear because there are no structural data for the TEM8 vWA domain. In this report, the TEM8 vWA domain was expressed, purified and crystallized. X-ray diffraction data were collected to 1.8?Å resolution from a single crystal, which belonged to space group P1 with unit-cell parameters a=65.9, b=66.1, c=74.4?Å, ?=63.7, ?=88.2, ?=59.9°.
Project description:Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming, gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The anthrax toxin lethal factor (LF) is the primary anthrax toxin component responsible for cytotoxicity and host death and has been a heavily researched target for design of postexposure therapeutics in the event of a bioterror attack. Various computer-aided drug design methodologies have proven useful for pinpointing new antianthrax drug scaffolds, optimizing existing leads and probes, and elucidating key mechanisms of action. We present a selection of in silico virtual screening protocols incorporating docking and scoring, shape-based searching, and pharmacophore mapping techniques to identify and prioritize small molecules with potential biological activity against LF. We also recommend screening parameters that have been shown to increase the accuracy and reliability of these computational results.
Project description:The three proteins that constitute anthrax toxin self-assemble into toxic complexes after one of these proteins, protective antigen (PA), binds to tumor endothelial marker 8 (TEM8) or capillary morphogenesis protein 2 (CMG2) cellular receptors. The toxin receptor complexes are internalized, and acidic endosomal pH triggers pore formation by PA and translocation of the catalytic subunits into the cytosol. In this study we show that the pH threshold for conversion of the PA prepore to the pore and for translocation differs by approximately a pH unit, depending on whether the TEM8 or CMG2 receptor is used. For TEM8-associated toxin, these events can occur at close to neutral pH values, and they show relatively low sensitivity to ammonium chloride treatment in cells. In contrast, with CMG2-associated toxin, these events require more acidic conditions and are highly sensitive to ammonium chloride. We show, furthermore, that PA dissociates from TEM8 and CMG2 upon pore formation. Our results are consistent with a model in which translocation depends on pore formation and pore formation, in turn, depends on release of PA from its receptor. We propose that because PA binds to CMG2 with much higher affinity than it does to TEM8, a lower pH is needed to attenuate CMG2 binding to allow pore formation. Our results suggest that toxin can form pores at different points in the endocytic pathway, depending on which receptor is used for entry.
Project description:The protein acyl transferase ZDHHC5 was recently proposed to regulate trafficking in the endocytic pathway. Therefore, we explored the function of this enzyme in controlling the action of bacterial toxins. We found that ZDHHC5 activity is required for two very different toxins: the anthrax lethal toxin and the pore-forming toxin aerolysin. Both of these toxins have precursor forms, the protoxins, which can use the proprotein convertases Furin and PC7 for activation. We show that ZDHHC5 indeed affects the processing of the protoxins to their active forms. We found that Furin and PC7 can both be S-palmitoylated and are substrates of ZDHHC5. The impact of ZDHHC5 on Furin/PC7-mediated anthrax toxin cleavage is dual, having an indirect and a direct component. First, ZDHHC5 affects the homeostasis and trafficking of a subset of cellular proteins, including Furin and PC7, presumably by affecting the endocytic/recycling pathway. Second, while not inhibiting the protease activity per se, ZDHHC5-mediated Furin/PC7 palmitoylation is required for the cleavage of the anthrax toxin. Finally, we show that palmitoylation of Furin and PC7 promotes their association with plasma membrane microdomains. Both the receptor-bound toxin and the convertases are of very low abundance at the cell surface. Their encounter is unlikely on reasonable time scales. This work indicates that palmitoylation drives their encounter in specific domains, allowing processing and thereby intoxication of the cell.
Project description:Heptameric pores formed in the endosomal membrane by the protective antigen moiety of anthrax toxin serve as portals for entry of the enzymatic moieties of the toxin into the cytosol. In the aqueous lumen of each pore is a "Phe clamp," a heptad of narrowly apposed Phe residues (Phe-427), that catalyzes the unfolding and translocation of the enzymatic moieties across the membrane. Here, we provide evidence for a "loop swap" between neighboring protective antigen subunits, which is required for efficient translocation and is mediated by a salt bridge formed between the side chains of Lys-397 and Asp-426. We propose that the interaction between residues 397 and 426 creates a structural framework that positions Phe-427 within the pore lumen, forming a functional Phe clamp and, hence, a translocation-competent pore.
Project description:Anthrax toxin is an A/B bacterial protein toxin which is composed of the enzymatically active Lethal Factor (LF) and/or Oedema Factor (EF) bound to Protective Antigen 63 (PA63) which functions as both the receptor binding and transmembrane domains. Once the toxin binds to its cell surface receptors it is internalized into the cell and traffics through Rab5- and Rab7-associated endosomal vesicles. Following acidification of the vesicle lumen, PA63 undergoes a dynamic change forming a beta-barrel that inserts into and forms a pore through the endosomal membrane. It is widely recognized that LF, and the related fusion protein LFnDTA, must be completely denatured in order to transit through the PA63 formed pore and enter the eukaryotic cell cytosol. We demonstrate by protease protection assays that the molecular chaperone GRP78 mediates the unfolding of LFnDTA and LF at neutral pH and thereby converts these proteins from a trypsin resistant to sensitive conformation. We have used immunoelectron microscopy and gold-labelled antibodies to demonstrate that both GRP78 and GRP94 chaperones are present in the lumen of endosomal vesicles. Finally, we have used siRNA to demonstrate that knock-down of GRP78 results in the emergence of resistance to anthrax lethal toxin and oedema toxin action.
Project description:After binding to cellular receptors and proteolytic activation, the protective antigen component of anthrax toxin forms a heptameric prepore. The prepore later undergoes pH-dependent conversion to a pore, mediating translocation of the edema and lethal factors to the cytosol. We describe structures of the prepore (3.6 A) and a prepore:receptor complex (4.3 A) that reveal the location of pore-forming loops and an unexpected interaction of the receptor with the pore-forming domain. Lower pH is required for prepore-to-pore conversion in the presence of the receptor, indicating that this interaction regulates pH-dependent pore formation. We present an example of a receptor negatively regulating pH-dependent membrane insertion.
Project description:Understanding immune responses to native antigens in response to natural infections can lead to improved approaches to vaccination. This study sought to characterize the humoral immune response to anthrax toxin components, capsule and spore antigens in individuals (n = 46) from the Kayseri and Malatya regions of Turkey who had recovered from mild or severe forms of cutaneous anthrax infection, compared to regional healthy controls (n = 20). IgG antibodies to each toxin component, the poly-?-D-glutamic acid capsule, the Bacillus collagen-like protein of anthracis (BclA) spore antigen, and the spore carbohydrate anthrose, were detected in the cases, with anthrax toxin neutralization and responses to Protective Antigen (PA) and Lethal Factor (LF) being higher following severe forms of the disease. Significant correlative relationships among responses to PA, LF, Edema Factor (EF) and capsule were observed among the cases. Though some regional control sera exhibited binding to a subset of the tested antigens, these samples did not neutralize anthrax toxins and lacked correlative relationships among antigen binding specificities observed in the cases. Comparison of serum binding to overlapping decapeptides covering the entire length of PA, LF and EF proteins in 26 cases compared to 8 regional controls revealed that anthrax toxin-neutralizing antibody responses elicited following natural cutaneous anthrax infection are directed to conformational epitopes. These studies support the concept of vaccination approaches that preserve conformational epitopes.
Project description:Cell-surface receptors play essential roles in anthrax toxin action by providing the toxin with a high-affinity anchor and self-assembly site on the plasma membrane, mediating the toxin entry into cells through endocytosis, and shifting the pH threshold for prepore-to-pore conversion of anthrax toxin protective antigen (PA) to a more acidic pH, thereby inhibiting premature pore formation. Each of the two known anthrax toxin receptors, ANTXR1 and ANTXR2, has an ectodomain comprised of an N-terminal von Willebrand factor A domain (VWA), which binds PA, and an uncharacterized immunoglobulin-like domain (Ig) that connects VWA to the membrane-spanning domain. Potential roles of the receptor Ig domain in anthrax toxin action have not been investigated heretofore.We expressed and purified the ANTXR2 ectodomain (R2-VWA-Ig) in E. coli and showed that it contains three disulfide bonds: one in R2-VWA and two in R2-Ig. Reduction of the ectodomain inhibited functioning of the pore, as measured by K(+) release from liposomes or Chinese hamster ovary cells or by PA-mediated translocation of a model substrate across the plasma membrane. However, reduction did not affect binding of the ectodomain to PA or the transition of ectodomain-bound PA prepore to the pore conformation. The inhibitory effect depended specifically on reduction of the disulfides within R2-Ig.We conclude that disulfide integrity within R2-Ig is essential for proper functioning of receptor-bound PA pore. This finding provides a novel venue to investigate the mechanism of anthrax toxin action and suggests new strategies for inhibiting toxin action.
Project description:A major challenge in bacterial developmental biology has been to understand the mechanisms underlying cell fate decisions. Some differentiated cell types display cooperative behaviour. Cooperation is one of the greatest mysteries of evolutionary biology and microbes have been considered as an excellent system for experimentally testing evolution theories. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a spore-forming bacterium, which is genetically closely related to B. anthracis, the agent of anthrax, and to B. cereus, an opportunistic human pathogen. The defining feature that distinguishes Bt from its relatives is its ability to produce crystal inclusions in the sporulating cells. These toxins are solubilized after ingestion and are cooperative public goods in insect hosts. In this study, we describe a Bt strain LM1212 that presents the unique ability to terminally differentiate into crystal producers and spore formers. Transcriptional analysis based on lacZ and gfp reporter genes suggested that this phenotype is the consequence of a new type of cell differentiation associated with a novel regulation mode of cry gene expression. The differentiating crystal-producer phenotype has higher spore productivity than a typical Bt strain and is better able to compete with Cry toxin null 'cheaters'. Potentially, this division of labour provides additional fitness benefits in terms of spore viability or durability of Cry toxin.