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Biochem Cell Biol. 2012 Dec;90(6):709-17. doi: 10.1139/o2012-029. Epub 2012 Sep 27.

Partial oligomerization of pyolysin induced by a disulfide-tethered mutant.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave. W, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada.


The bacterial toxin pyolysin (PLO) belongs to the family of cholesterol-dependent cytolysins (CDCs), which form large, ring-shaped oligomeric pores in cholesterol-containing membranes. Monomeric CDC molecules have a structure of four domains, with domains 2 and 3 packed against each other. After binding to target membranes containing cholesterol, toxin monomers oligomerize into pre-pore complexes. Trans-membrane pores form when the pre-pores insert into the lipid bilayer. Membrane insertion requires each subunit in the pre-pore to undergo a significant change in conformation, including the separation of domains 2 and 3. We here characterize a pyolysin mutant with an engineered disulfide bond between domains 2 and 3. The disulfide-tethered mutant binds to membranes but does not form oligomers. When mixed with wild type PLO, the two proteins form hybrid oligomers, which are reduced in size and arc-shaped rather than ring-shaped. With equimolar mixtures or the disulfide mutant in slight excess, the hybrid oligomers retain pore-forming activity, while a larger excess of the mutant suppresses pore formation. These results support a "partially cooperative" mode of protein activity, in which a limited number of functional subunits within an oligomer have to cooperate to initiate membrane insertion and pore formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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