Reduced virulence of the MARTX toxin increases the persistence of outbreak-associated Vibrio vulnificus in host reservoirs.
ABSTRACT: Opportunistic bacteria strategically dampen their virulence to allow them to survive and propagate in hosts. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying virulence control are not clearly understood. Here, we found that the opportunistic pathogen Vibrio vulnificus biotype 3, which caused an outbreak of severe wound and intestinal infections associated with farmed tilapia, secretes significantly less virulent multifunctional autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxin, which is the most critical virulence factor in other clinical Vibrio strains. The biotype 3 MARTX toxin contains a cysteine protease domain (CPD) evolutionarily retaining a unique autocleavage site and a distinct β-flap region. CPD autoproteolytic activity is attenuated following its autocleavage because of the β-flap region. This β-flap blocks the active site, disabling further autoproteolytic processing and release of the modularly structured effector domains within the toxin. Expression of this altered CPD consequently results in attenuated release of effectors by the toxin and significantly reduces the virulence of V. vulnificus biotype 3 in cells and in mice. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that this virulence mechanism is shared in all biotype 3 strains. Thus, these data provide new insights into the mechanisms by which opportunistic bacteria persist in an environmental reservoir, prolonging the potential to cause outbreaks.
Project description: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.
Project description:Vibrio vulnificus causes highly lethal bacterial infections in which the Multifunctional Autoprocessing Repeats-in-Toxins (MARTX) toxin product of the rtxA1 gene is a key virulence factor. MARTX toxins are secreted proteins up to 5208 amino acids in size. Conserved MARTX N- and C-terminal repeat regions work in concert to form pores in eukaryotic cell membranes, through which the toxin's central region of modular effector domains is translocated. Upon inositol hexakisphosphate-induced activation of the of the MARTX cysteine protease domain (CPD) in the eukaryotic cytosol, effector domains are released from the holotoxin by autoproteolytic activity. We previously reported that the native MARTX toxin effector domain repertoire is dispensable for epithelial cellular necrosis in vitro, but essential for cell rounding and apoptosis prior to necrotic cell death. Here we use an intragastric mouse model to demonstrate that the effector domain region is required for bacterial virulence during intragastric infection. The MARTX effector domain region is essential for bacterial dissemination from the intestine, but dissemination occurs in the absence of overt intestinal tissue pathology. We employ an in vitro model of V. vulnificus interaction with polarized colonic epithelial cells to show that the MARTX effector domain region induces rapid intestinal barrier dysfunction and increased paracellular permeability prior to onset of cell lysis. Together, these results negate the inherent assumption that observations of necrosis in vitro directly predict bacterial virulence, and indicate a paradigm shift in our conceptual understanding of MARTX toxin function during intestinal infection. Results implicate the MARTX effector domain region in mediating early bacterial dissemination from the intestine to distal organs-a key step in V. vulnificus foodborne pathogenesis-even before onset of overt intestinal pathology.
Project description:The objective of this study was to analyze multifunctional autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxin domain organization within the aquatic species Vibrio vulnificus as well as to study the evolution of the rtxA1 gene. The species is subdivided into three biotypes that differ in host range and geographical distribution. We have found three different types (I, II, and III) of V. vulnificus MARTX (MARTX(Vv)) toxins with common domains (an autocatalytic cysteine protease domain [CPD], an ?/?-hydrolase domain, and a domain resembling that of the LifA protein of Escherichia coli O127:H6 E2348/69 [Efa/LifA]) and specific domains (a Rho-GTPase inactivation domain [RID], a domain of unknown function [DUF], a domain resembling that of the rtxA protein of Photorhabdus asymbiotica [rtxA(PA)], and an actin cross-linking domain [ACD]). Biotype 1 isolates harbor MARTX(Vv) toxin types I and II, biotype 2 isolates carry MARTX(Vv) toxin type III, and biotype 3 isolates have MARTX(Vv) toxin type II. The analyzed biotype 2 isolates harbor two identical copies of rtxA1, one chromosomal and the other plasmidic. The evolutionary history of the gene demonstrates that MARTX(Vv) toxins are mosaics, comprising pieces with different evolutionary histories, some of which have been acquired by intra- or interspecific horizontal gene transfer. Finally, we have found evidence that the evolutionary history of the rtxA1 gene for biotype 2 differs totally from the gene history of biotypes 1 and 3.
Project description:Vibrio vulnificus is an environmental organism that causes septic human infections characterized by high morbidity and mortality. The annual incidence and global distribution of this pathogen are increasing as ocean waters warm. Clinical strains exhibit variations in the primary virulence toxin, suggesting a potential for the emergence of new strains with altered virulence properties. A clonal outbreak of tilapia-associated wound infections in Israel serves as a natural experiment for the sudden emergence of a new V. vulnificus strain. The effector domain content of the multifunctional autoprocessing RTX (MARTX) toxin of the outbreak-associated biotype 3 (BT3) strains was previously shown to harbor a modification generated by recombination. The modification introduced an actin-induced adenylate cyclase effector domain (ExoY) and an effector domain that disrupts the Golgi organelle (DmX). Here, we report that the exchange of these effector domains for a putative progenitor biotype 1 toxin arrangement produces a toxin that slows the lysis kinetics of targeted epithelial cells but increases cellular rounding phenotypes in response to bacteria. In addition, replacing the biotype 3 toxin variant with the putative progenitor biotype 1 variant renders the resulting strain significantly more virulent in mice. This suggests that the exchange of MARTX effector domains during the emergence of BT3 generated a toxin with reduced toxin potency, resulting in decreased virulence of this outbreak-associated strain. We posit that selection for reduced virulence may serve as a route for this lethal infectious agent to enter the human food chain by allowing it to persist in natural hosts. IMPORTANCEVibrio vulnificus is a serious infection linked to climate change. The virulence capacity of these bacteria can vary by gene exchange, resulting in new variants of the primary virulence toxin. In this study, we tested whether the emergence of an epidemic strain of V. vulnificus with a novel toxin variant correlated with a change in virulence. We found that restoring the biotype 3 toxin variant to the putative progenitor-type toxin resulted in dramatically increased virulence, revealing that the emergence of the biotype 3 strain could be linked to virulence reduction. This reduced virulence, previously found also in the biotype 1 strain, suggests that reduced virulence may stimulate outbreaks, as strains have greater capacity to enter the human food chain through reduced impact to environmental hosts.
Project description: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.
Project description:Vibrio vulnificus infects humans and causes lethal septicemia. The primary virulence factor is a multifunctional-autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxin consisting of conserved repeats-containing regions and various effector domains. Recent genomic analyses for the newly emerged V. vulnificus biotype 3 strain revealed that its MARTX toxin has two previously unknown effector domains. Herein, we characterized one of these domains, Domain X (DmXVv ). A structure-based homology search revealed that DmXVv belongs to the C58B cysteine peptidase subfamily. When ectopically expressed in cells, DmXVv was autoprocessed and induced cytopathicity including Golgi dispersion. When the catalytic cysteine or the region flanking the scissile bond was mutated, both autoprocessing and cytopathicity were significantly reduced indicating that DmXVv cytopathicity is activated by amino-terminal autoprocessing. Consistent with this, host cell protein export was affected by Vibrio cells producing a toxin with wild-type, but not catalytically inactive, DmXVv . DmXVv was found to localize to Golgi and to directly interact with Golgi-associated ADP-ribosylation factors ARF1, ARF3 and ARF4, although ARF binding was not necessary for the subcellular localization. Rather, this interaction was found to induce autoprocessing of DmXVv . These data demonstrate that the V. vulnificus hijacks the host ARF proteins to activate the cytopathic DmXVv effector domain of MARTX toxin.
Project description:Vibrio vulnificus is an foodborne pathogen that can cause gastroenteritis and septicemia in humans. V. vulnificus secretes a multifunctional autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxin as an essential virulence factor to cause disease. MARTX toxins are pore-forming toxins that translocate multiple functionally independent effector domains into a target cell. MARTX toxins of V. vulnificus can contain anywhere from 3 to 5 of the 10 identified effector domains and strains with different effector repertories having varying virulence potential. The goal of this study was to compare how different effector combinations from an F-type MARTX toxin differentially remodel the transcriptional response of human intestinal epithelial cells (IECs). F-type MARTX toxins contain five effector domains – the actin crosslinking domain (ACD), two copies the makes caterpillar floppy-like domain (MCF), and alpha-beta hydrolase (ABH) domain, and the Ras/Rap1 specific endopeptidase (RRSP). Cultured human IECs were treated with V. vulnificus or strains modified to secrete a toxin with only ACD, ACD with MCF-ABH, ACD with RRSP, or no active effectors. We demonstrate that when no active effectors are present, the bacterium induces minimal changes in the transcriptional profile of IECs. However, the strains containing different effector combinations each uniquely remodeled the transcriptional profile of IECs. These data provide insight into how V. vulnificus strains with varying effector combinations can differentially regulate the host cell response to cause disease. Overall design: T84 human colonic epithelial cells were inoculated with 98-783-DP-A1 Vibrio vulnificus containing the wild type F-type MARTX toxin or strains generated to contain MARTX toxins with varying effector combinations. mRNA from inoculated T84 cells was extracted for RNA-sequencing. Each processed file is in .xlsx file type and contain official gene symbol, fold changes compared to PBS treated controls, and p-vaules indicating statistically significant or non-significant changes in gene expression compared to PBS treated controls.
Project description:MARTX toxins modulate the virulence of a number of Gram-negative Vibrio species. This family of toxins is defined by the presence of a cysteine protease domain (CPD), which proteolytically activates the Vibrio cholerae MARTX toxin. Although recent structural studies of the CPD have uncovered a new allosteric activation mechanism, the mechanism of CPD substrate recognition or toxin processing is unknown. Here we show that interdomain cleavage of MARTXVc enhances effector domain function. We also identify the first small-molecule inhibitors of this protease domain and present the 2.35-A structure of the CPD bound to one of these inhibitors. This structure, coupled with biochemical and mutational studies of the toxin, reveals the molecular basis of CPD substrate specificity and underscores the evolutionary relationship between the CPD and the clan CD caspase proteases. These studies are likely to prove valuable for devising new antitoxin strategies for a number of bacterial pathogens.
Project description:The multifunctional-autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX(Vv)) toxin that harbours a varied repertoire of effector domains is the primary virulence factor of Vibrio vulnificus. Although ubiquitously present among Biotype I toxin variants, the 'Makes caterpillars floppy-like' effector domain (MCF(Vv)) is previously unstudied. Using transient expression and protein delivery, MCF(Vv) and MCF(Ah) from the Aeromonas hydrophila?MARTX(Ah)) toxin are shown for the first time to induce cell rounding. Alanine mutagenesis across the C-terminal subdomain of MCF(Vv) identified an Arg-Cys-Asp (RCD) tripeptide motif shown to comprise a cysteine protease catalytic site essential for autoprocessing of MCF(Vv). The autoprocessing could be recapitulated in vitro by the addition of host cell lysate to recombinant MCF(Vv), indicating induced autoprocessing by cellular factors. The RCD motif is also essential for cytopathicity, suggesting autoprocessing is essential first to activate the toxin and then to process a cellular target protein resulting in cell rounding. Sequence homology places MCF(Vv) within the C58 cysteine protease family that includes the type III secretion effectors YopT from Yersinia spp. and AvrPphB from Pseudomonas syringae. However, the catalytic site RCD motif is unique compared with other C58 peptidases and is here proposed to represent a new subgroup of autopeptidase found within a number of putative large bacterial toxins.
Project description:Clostridium difficile toxin A and B (TcdA and TcdB) are the major virulence factors of the bacterium, both of which consist of two enzymatic domains: an effector glucosyltransferase domain (GTD) and a cysteine protease domain (CPD) responsible for autocleavage and release of GTD. Although the CPDs from both toxins share a similar structure and mechanism of hexakisphosphate (InsP6)-induced activation, TcdA is substantially less sensitive to the autocleavage as compared with TcdB. In this study, we provided evidence of inter-domain regulation of CPD activity of TcdA and its autoprocessing. The C-terminus combined repetitive oligo peptides (CROPs) of TcdA reduced the accessibility of TcdB CPD to its substrate in a chimeric toxin TxB-Ar, consequently blocking autoprocessing. Moreover, interference of antibodies with the CROPs of full-length TcdA efficiently enhanced its GTD release. In conclusion, by utilizing chimeric toxins and specific antibodies, we identified that the CROPs of TcdA plays a crucial role in controlling the InsP6-mediated activation of CPD and autocleavage of GTD. Our data provides insights on the molecular mode of action of the C. difficile toxins.