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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 20;108(51):20544-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1111155108. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

3D structure of the Yersinia entomophaga toxin complex and implications for insecticidal activity.

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  • 1Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.


Toxin complex (Tc) proteins are a class of bacterial protein toxins that form large, multisubunit complexes. Comprising TcA, B, and C components, they are of great interest because many exhibit potent insecticidal activity. Here we report the structure of a novel Tc, Yen-Tc, isolated from the bacterium Yersinia entomophaga MH96, which differs from the majority of bacterially derived Tcs in that it exhibits oral activity toward a broad range of insect pests, including the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella). We have determined the structure of the Yen-Tc using single particle electron microscopy and studied its mechanism of toxicity by comparative analyses of two variants of the complex exhibiting different toxicity profiles. We show that the A subunits form the basis of a fivefold symmetric assembly that differs substantially in structure and subunit arrangement from its most well characterized homologue, the Xenorhabdus nematophila toxin XptA1. Histopathological and quantitative dose response analyses identify the B and C subunits, which map to a single, surface-accessible region of the structure, as the sole determinants of toxicity. Finally, we show that the assembled Yen-Tc has endochitinase activity and attribute this to putative chitinase subunits that decorate the surface of the TcA scaffold, an observation that may explain the oral toxicity associated with the complex.

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