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J Bacteriol. 2004 Jan;186(1):43-50.

Temporal expression of pertussis toxin and Ptl secretion proteins by Bordetella pertussis.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45267, USA.


Pertussis toxin is an AB(5) toxin comprised of protein subunits S1 through S5. The individual subunits are secreted by a Sec-dependent mechanism into the periplasm, where the toxin is assembled. The Ptl type IV secretion system mediates secretion of assembled toxin past the outer membrane. In this study, we examined the time course of protein expression, toxin assembly, and secretion as a function of the bacterial growth cycle. Logarithmic growth was observed after a 1-h lag phase. Secreted toxin was first observed at 3 h. Secretion continued throughout the logarithmic growth phase and decreased as the culture entered the stationary phase after about 24 h. On a per cell basis, toxin secretion occurred at a constant rate of 3 molecules/min/cell from 2 to 18 h. More of toxin subunits S1, S2, and S3 were produced than were secreted, resulting in periplasmic accumulation. Periplasmic S1, S2, and S3 were found to be soluble in the periplasm, as well as membrane associated. About one-half of the periplasmic S1, S2 and S3 subunits were incorporated into holotoxin. Secretion component PtlF was present at a low level at time zero, and the level increased between 2 and 24 h from 30 to 1,000 molecules per cell; however, the initial level of PtlF, 30 molecules per cell, supported maximal secretion. The accumulation of both periplasmic toxin and secretion components suggests that translation rates exceed the rate of secretion and that secretion, not toxin and Ptl complex assembly, is rate limiting.

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