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Biochemistry. 1997 Jul 29;36(30):9169-78.

Conformational changes in cholera toxin B subunit-ganglioside GM1 complexes are elicited by environmental pH and evoke changes in membrane structure.

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Department of Biology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri 63103-2010, USA.


Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) was used to monitor pH-dependent structural changes in the cholera toxin B subunit (CTB) and the membranes with which CTB associates. The distance separating the single tryptophan (Trp88) of each CTB monomer and a pyrene probe linked to the membrane-imbedded tail of ganglioside GM1 is not influenced by pH in a range from 3.5 to 7.5, consistent with the position of Trp88 in the GM1 binding site of CTB. In contrast, the distance between the pyrene probe on GM1 and coumarin, stilbene, or fluorescein probes covalently linked to specific sites on CTB appears to increase significantly as the pH is lowered to 5.0 or less. This conformational change is not accompanied by detectable changes in the distance between Trp88 and these extrinsic probe positions in the presence of nonfluorescent GM1. However, when the distance from Trp88 to the extrinsic probes is monitored as a function of pH in the absence of GM1, a conformational change is seen which indicates that receptor binding influences the character of pH-dependent conformational changes that occur within CTB. Interestingly, the observed change in CTB conformation is accompanied by a change in the relative position of GM1 within the membrane as judged by FRET from the pyrene probe on GM1 to a 7-nitrobenz-2-oxa-1,3-diazol-4-yl (NBD) probe linked to the polar head group of phosphatidylethanolamine and positioned at the membrane surface. Taken together, the data imply that low endosomal pH is capable of inducing structural changes in CTB, which, in turn, exert effects on the structure of the membrane to which CTB is bound. These phenomena may have a role in (1) processing of cholera toxin within the endosomal compartments of some target cell types, (2) determining the lag time between cholera toxin binding and the target cell response to cholera intoxication, or (3) the efficiency of CTB and cholera toxin as mucosal adjuvants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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