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J Membr Biol. 2010 Jul;236(2):191-201. doi: 10.1007/s00232-010-9292-z. Epub 2010 Aug 15.

Low pH-induced pore formation by the T domain of botulinum toxin type A is dependent upon NaCl concentration.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5215, USA.


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) undergo low pH-triggered membrane insertion, resulting in the translocation of their light (catalytic) chains into the cytoplasm. The T (translocation) domain of the BoNT heavy chain is believed to carry out translocation. Here, the behavior of isolated T domain from BoNT type A has been characterized, both in solution and when associated with model membranes. When BoNT T domain prepared in the detergent dodecylmaltoside was diluted into aqueous solution, it exhibited a low pH-dependent conformational change below pH 6. At low pH the T domain associated with, and formed pores within, model membrane vesicles composed of 30 mol% dioleoylphosphatidylglycerol/70 mol% dioleoylphosphatidylcholine. Although T domain interacted with vesicles at low (50 mM) and high (400 mM) NaCl concentrations, the interaction required much less lipid at low salt. However, even at high lipid concentrations pore formation was much more pronounced at low NaCl concentrations than at high NaCl concentration. Increasing salt concentration after insertion in the presence of 50 mM NaCl did not decrease pore formation. A similar effect of NaCl concentration upon pore formation was observed in vesicles composed solely of dioleoylphosphatidylcholine, showing that the effect of NaCl did not solely involve modulation of electrostatic interactions between protein and anionic lipids. These results indicate that some feature of membrane-bound T domain tertiary structure critical for pore formation is highly dependent upon salt concentration.

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