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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Jan 27;364(1514):209-15. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0126.

Proton-coupled protein transport through the anthrax toxin channel.

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Departments of Physiology and Biophysics and Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


Anthrax toxin consists of three proteins (approx. 90kDa each): lethal factor (LF); oedema factor (OF); and protective antigen (PA). The former two are enzymes that act when they reach the cytosol of a targeted cell. To enter the cytosol, however, which they do after being endocytosed into an acidic vesicle compartment, they require the third component, PA. PA (or rather its proteolytically generated fragment PA63) forms at low pH a heptameric beta-barrel channel, (PA63)7, through which LF and OF are transported--a phenomenon we have demonstrated in planar phospholipid bilayers. It might appear that (PA63)7 simply forms a large hole through which LF and OF diffuse. However, LF and OF are folded proteins, much too large to fit through the approximately 15A diameter (PA63)7 beta-barrel. This paper discusses how the (PA63)7 channel both participates in the unfolding of LF and OF and functions in their translocation as a proton-protein symporter.

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