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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Jan;59(2):447-59.

Macrophage cytotoxicity produced by adenylate cyclase toxin from Bordetella pertussis: more than just making cyclic AMP!

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Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, Department of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Box 800419, Charlottesville, 22908, USA.


The cytotoxic effect of adenylate cyclase (AC) toxin from Bordetella pertussis on host cells has been attributed to the production of supraphysiologic levels of cyclic AMP by the toxin. We have tested this hypothesis and show that at least two different mechanisms, cAMP accumulation/ATP depletion and oligomerization/pore formation, contribute, perhaps synergistically, to AC toxin-induced cytotoxicity. Wild-type (WT) AC toxin causes cell death associated with an increase in cAMP, a reduction in ATP, activation of caspases 3/7, and increased annexin V and TUNEL staining. In contrast, a non-acylated, enzymatically active, non-haemolytic form of AC toxin is able to increase cAMP, reduce ATP and elicit annexin V staining, but the decrease in ATP and the annexin staining are transient and there is minimal caspase activation, TUNEL staining and cell death. Mutant AC toxins defective in either enzymatic activity or the ability to deliver their enzymatic domain are able to kill J774 cells, without cAMP production, and with minimal caspase activation and TUNEL staining. Comparison of the potencies of WT toxin and those of mutants that only increase cAMP or only create transmembrane pores establishes that at least two mechanisms are contributory and that simply the production of cAMP is not enough to account for the cytotoxicity produced by AC toxin.

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