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Biochemistry. 1993 Nov 23;32(46):12363-71.

Structural characterization, membrane interaction, and specific assembly within phospholipid membranes of hydrophobic segments from Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis cytolytic toxin.

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Department of Membrane Research and Biophysics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


The Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti) cytolytic toxin is hypothesized to exert its toxic activity via pore formation in the cell membrane as a result of the aggregation of several monomers. To gain insight into the toxin's mode of action, 2 putative hydrophobic 22 amino acid peptides were synthesized and characterized spectroscopically and functionally. One peptide corresponded to the putative amphiphilic alpha-helical region (amino acids 110-131, termed helix-2), and the other to amino acids 50-71 (termed helix-1) [Ward, E. S., Ellar, D. J., & Chilcott, C. N. (1988) J. Mol. Biol. 202, 527-535] of the toxin. Circular dichroism spectroscopy revealed that both segments adopt high alpha-helical content in a hydrophobic environment, in agreement with previous models. To monitor peptide-lipid and peptide-peptide interactions, the peptides were labeled selectively with either 7-nitro-2,1,3-benzoxadiazol-4-yl (NBD) (to serve as donor) or tetramethylrhodamine (to serve as an acceptor), at their N-terminal amino acids. Both segments bind strongly to small unilamellar vesicles, composed of zwitterionic phospholipids, with surface partition coefficients on the order of 10(4) M-1. The shape of the binding isotherms indicates that helix-2 forms large aggregates within phospholipid membranes. Resonance energy transfer experiments demonstrated that the segments self-associate and interact with each other, but do not associate with unrelated membrane-bound peptides. Functional characterization demonstrated that helix-2 permeates phospholipid SUV with a potency similar to that of naturally occurring pore-forming peptides. Thus, the results support a role for helices-1 and -2 in the assembly and in the pore formation by Bti toxin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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