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Structure. 2004 Nov;12(11):2059-66.

Large-scale structural changes accompany binding of lethal factor to anthrax protective antigen: a cryo-electron microscopic study.

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Department of Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Anthrax toxin (AT), secreted by Bacillus anthracis, is a three-protein cocktail of lethal factor (LF, 90 kDa), edema factor (EF, 89 kDa), and the protective antigen (PA, 83 kDa). Steps in anthrax toxicity involve (1) binding of ligand (EF/LF) to a heptamer of PA63 (PA63h) generated after N-terminal proteolytic cleavage of PA and, (2) following endocytosis of the complex, translocation of the ligand into the cytosol by an as yet unknown mechanism. The PA63h.LF complex was directly visualized from analysis of images of specimens suspended in vitrified buffer by cryo-electron microscopy, which revealed that the LF molecule, localized to the nonmembrane-interacting face of the oligomer, interacts with four successive PA63 monomers and partially unravels the heptamer, thereby widening the central lumen. The observed structural reorganization in PA63h likely facilitates the passage of the large 90 kDa LF molecule through the lumen en route to its eventual delivery across the membrane bilayer.

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