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J Biol Chem. 2007 Sep 28;282(39):28843-52. Epub 2007 Jul 25.

Aeromonas exoenzyme T of Aeromonas salmonicida is a bifunctional protein that targets the host cytoskeleton.

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Institute of Veterinary Bacteriology, Universität Bern, Länggassstrasse 122, Postfach, CH-3001 Bern, Switzerland.


Type III protein secretion has been shown recently to be important in the virulence of the fish pathogen Aeromonas salmonicida. The ADP-ribosylating toxin Aeromonas exoenzyme T (AexT) is one effector protein targeted for secretion via this system. In this study, we identified muscular and nonmuscular actin as substrates of the ADP-ribosylating activity of AexT. Furthermore, we show that AexT also functions as a GTPase-activating protein (GAP), displaying GAP activity against monomeric GTPases of the Rho family, specifically Rho, Rac, and Cdc42. Transfection of fish cells with wild type AexT resulted in depolymerization of the actin cytoskeleton and cell rounding. Point mutations within either the GAP or the ADP-ribosylating active sites of AexT (Arg-143 as well as Glu-398 and Glu-401, respectively) abolished enzymatic activity, yet did not prevent actin filament depolymerization. However, inactivation of the two catalytic sites simultaneously did. These results suggest that both the GAP and ADP-ribosylating domains of AexT contribute to its biological activity. This is the first bacterial virulence factor to be described that has a specific actin ADP-ribosylation activity and GAP activity toward Rho, Rac, and Cdc42, both enzymatic activities contributing to actin filament depolymerization.

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