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Biochem J. 1995 Aug 15;310 ( Pt 1):285-9.

Diphtheria toxin endocytosis and membrane translocation are dependent on the intact membrane-anchored receptor (HB-EGF precursor): studies on the cell-associated receptor cleaved by a metalloprotease in phorbol-ester-treated cells.

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Institute for Cancer Research, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Montebello, Oslo.


Preincubation of Vero cells with 1 microM phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) decreased the specific binding of diphtheria toxin by about 50%, whereas the toxic effect, endocytic uptake and membrane translocation were completely blocked. Toxin bound to PMA-treated cells was released upon incubation with heparinase. The effect of PMA was abrogated in the presence of EDTA or N-(DL-[2-(hydroxyaminocarbonyl)methyl]-4-methyl-pentanoyl)-L-3-(2' - naphthyl)-alanyl-L-alanine 2-aminoethyl-amide (TAPI), a specific inhibitor of matrix metalloproteases. The results indicate that PMA induces proteolytic cleavage of the diphtheria-toxin receptor [heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF)-precursor] outside the membrane anchor, and that about 50% of the growth-factor ecto-domain remains associated with the cells, due to binding to surface proteoglycans containing heparan sulphates. Although the cleaved cell-associated HB-EGF binds diphtheria toxin, it does not serve as a functional receptor, since neither toxin internalization nor translocation occurs. Thus the intact HB-EGF precursor is of crucial importance for its function as the diphtheria-toxin receptor.

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