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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31191. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031191. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Charged and hydrophobic surfaces on the a chain of shiga-like toxin 1 recognize the C-terminal domain of ribosomal stalk proteins.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Shiga-like toxins are ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIP) produced by pathogenic E. coli strains that are responsible for hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. The catalytic A(1) chain of Shiga-like toxin 1 (SLT-1), a representative RIP, first docks onto a conserved peptide SD[D/E]DMGFGLFD located at the C-terminus of all three eukaryotic ribosomal stalk proteins and halts protein synthesis through the depurination of an adenine base in the sarcin-ricin loop of 28S rRNA. Here, we report that the A(1) chain of SLT-1 rapidly binds to and dissociates from the C-terminal peptide with a monomeric dissociation constant of 13 µM. An alanine scan performed on the conserved peptide revealed that the SLT-1 A(1) chain interacts with the anionic tripeptide DDD and the hydrophobic tetrapeptide motif FGLF within its sequence. Based on these 2 peptide motifs, SLT-1 A(1) variants were generated that displayed decreased affinities for the stalk protein C-terminus and also correlated with reduced ribosome-inactivating activities in relation to the wild-type A(1) chain. The toxin-peptide interaction and subsequent toxicity were shown to be mediated by cationic and hydrophobic docking surfaces on the SLT-1 catalytic domain. These docking surfaces are located on the opposite face of the catalytic cleft and suggest that the docking of the A(1) chain to SDDDMGFGLFD may reorient its catalytic domain to face its RNA substrate. More importantly, both the delineated A(1) chain ribosomal docking surfaces and the ribosomal peptide itself represent a target and a scaffold, respectively, for the design of generic inhibitors to block the action of RIPs.

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