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Biochemistry. 2008 Feb 19;47(7):2134-42. doi: 10.1021/bi701187e. Epub 2008 Jan 25.

Inhibition of lytic activity of Escherichia coli toxin hemolysin E against human red blood cells by a leucine zipper peptide and understanding the underlying mechanism.

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Molecular and Structural Biology Division, Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow-226001, India.


To investigate as to whether a peptide derived from hemolysin E (HlyE) can inhibit the cytotoxic activity of this protein or not, several peptides were examined for their efficacy to inhibit the lytic activity of the protein against human red blood cells (hRBCs). It was found that a wild-type peptide, H-205, derived from an amphipathic leucine zipper motif, located in the amino acid region 205-234, inhibited the lytic activity of hemolysin E against hRBCs. To understand the basis of this inhibition, several functional and structural studies were performed. Western blotting analysis indicated that the preincubation of HlyE with H-205 did not inhibit its binding to hRBC. The results indicated that H-205 but not its mutant inhibited the hemolysin E-induced depolarization of hRBCs. Flow cytometric studies with annexin V-FITC staining of hRBCs after incubation with either protein or protein/peptide complex suggested that H-205 prevented the hemolysin E-induced damage of the membrane organization of hRBCs. Tryptophan fluorescence and circular dichroism studies showed that H-205 induced a conformational change in HlyE, which was accompanied by the enhancement of an appreciable helical structure. Fluorescence studies with rhodamine-labeled peptides showed that H-205 reversibly self-assembled in aqueous environment, which raised a possibility that the H-205 peptide could interact with its counterpart in the protein and thus disturb the proper conformation of HlyE, resulting in the inhibition of its cytotoxic activity. The peptides derived from the homologous segments of other members of this toxin family may also act as inhibitors of the corresponding toxin.

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