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Trends Biochem Sci. 2006 Feb;31(2):123-33. Epub 2006 Jan 6.

Stealth and mimicry by deadly bacterial toxins.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada.


Diphtheria toxin and exotoxin A are well-characterized members of the ADP-ribosyltransferase toxin family that function as virulence factors in the pathogenic bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Recent high-resolution structural data of the Michaelis (enzyme-substrate) complex of the P. aeruginosa toxin with an NAD(+) analog and eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2) have provided insights into the mechanism of inactivation of protein synthesis caused by these protein factors. In addition, rigorous steady-state and stopped-flow kinetic analyses of the toxin-catalyzed reaction, in combination with inhibitor studies, have resulted in a quantum leap in our understanding of the mechanistic details of this deadly enzyme mechanism. It is now apparent that these toxins use stealth and molecular mimicry in unleashing their toxic strategy in the infected host eukaryotic cell.

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