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J Biol Chem. 1995 Jun 9;270(23):13932-6.

The enterotoxin from Clostridium difficile (ToxA) monoglucosylates the Rho proteins.

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  • 1Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie, Universität des Saarlandes, Federal Republic of Germany.


The enterotoxin from Clostridium difficile (ToxA) is one of the causative agents of the antibiotic-associated pseudomembranous colitis. In cultured monolayer cells ToxA exhibits cytotoxic activity to induce disassembly of the actin cytoskeleton, which is accompanied by morphological changes. ToxA-induced depolymerization of actin filaments is correlated with a decrease in the ADP-ribosylation of the low molecular mass GTP-binding Rho proteins (Just, I., Selzer, J., von Eichel-Streiber, C., and Aktories, K. (1995) J. Clin. Invest. 95, 1026-1031). Here we report on the identification of the ToxA-induced modification of Rho. Applying electrospray mass spectrometry, the mass of the modification was determined as 162 Da, which is consistent with the incorporation of a hexose into Rho. From several hexoses tested UDP-glucose selectively served as cosubstrate for ToxA-catalyzed modification. The acceptor amino acid of glucosylation was identified from a Lys-C-generated peptide by tandem mass spectrometry as Thr-37. Mutation of Thr-37 to Ala completely abolished glucosylation. The members of the Rho family (RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42Hs) were substrates for ToxA, whereas H-Ras, Rab5, and Arf1 were not glucosylated. ToxA-catalyzed glucosylation of lysates from ToxA-pretreated rat basophilic leukemia (RBL) cells resulted in a decreased incorporation of [14C]glucose, indicating previous glucosylation in the intact cell. Glucosylation of the Rho subtype proteins appears to be the molecular mechanism by which C. difficile ToxA mediates its cytotoxic effects on cells.

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