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FEBS Lett. 1990 Jul 30;268(1):129-32.

The epidermolytic toxins are serine proteases.

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Department of Biochemistry, UMDS, London, UK.


Certain strains of Staphylococcus aureus usually belonging to phage group II produce epidermolytic toxins (ETA and ETB) which cause intraepidermal splitting in mice, neonates and occasionally adults. Amino acid sequences of ETA and ETB have been reported but the mechanism of epidermolysis remains unknown. A search of the NBRF-PIR computer database showed the toxins to have significant sequence similarity with staphylococcal V8 protease and that the catalytic triad of V8 protease is present in ETA and ETB. Comparison of ETA, ETB and V8 protease with other members of the trypsin-like serine protease family revealed little homology save for the immediate vicinity of the residues constituting the catalytic triad. The toxins, therefore, exhibit a distant relationship to mammalian serine proteases. A potential Ca2(+)-binding loop was identified in ETA (but not ETB) on the basis of sequence similarity with the second calcium-binding loop of rat intestinal calcium-binding protein. Epidermolysis produced by ETA in the mouse bioassay was shown to be inhibited by the presence of EDTA consistent with a Ca2(+)-dependent mechanism.

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