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J Struct Biol. 1998;121(3):343-55.

Cholesterol-Streptolysin O Interaction: An EM Study of Wild-Type and Mutant Streptolysin O.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Mainz, Mainz, D-55099, Germany


We present transmission electron microscopical data from negatively stained specimens of cholesterol following interaction with the thiol-activated bacterial toxin streptolysin O (SLO) (wild-type and a number of cysteine substitution mutants), with and without chemical modification of the cysteine residues. Two experimental systems were used, one with an aqueous suspension of cholesterol microcrystals and the other with immobilized thin planar cholesterol crystals attached to a carbon film. In both systems the wild-type SLO and two cytolytically active mutants, Cys 530 --> Ala (C530A) and Ser 101 --> Cys (S101C), readily generated the characteristic SLO arc- and ring-like oligomers on the surface of cholesterol microcrystals and immobilized planar cholesterol crystals. An underlying array of bound toxin can sometimes be detected. In the presence of high concentrations of SLO monomer, extensive sheet-like networks of linked oligomers extend from the microcrystals. The SLO mutant Thr250 --> Cys (T250C), which also possesses a relatively high cytolytic activity, has been found to create ring-like toxin oligomers somewhat more slowly than wild-type SLO, but the linear monomolecular layer array of cholesterol-bound toxin is more readily detected. With mutant Asn402 --> Cys (N402C), which has approximately 10% cytolytic activity compared to wild-type SLO, the formation of ring-like oligomers is markedly reduced, with incomplete arcs and the parallel arrays predominating. Chemical modification of the functional cysteine groups of SLO mutants T250C and N402C completely inhibits the formation of toxin oligomers, but does not prevent the ability of these mutants to bind to cholesterol as a linear array. Such chemical modification is also known to abolish hemolysis/cytolysis. For both mutant T250C and N402C the parallel array of bound SLO adopts an orientation that appears to be determined by the underlying lattice of the crystalline cholesterol. The cholesterol-binding of biotinylated SLO mutant N402C was confirmed by labeling in suspension with 5-nm streptavidin-conjugated colloidal gold particles. Removal of the maltose-binding protein from the SLO fusion products increases the order of the monolayer array of biotinylated SLO bound to cholesterol crystals. Overall, our data support the concept that there is sterospecific binding of the SLO monomer to crystalline cholesterol bilayers, prior to oligomer formation. With the mutants tested, cysteine modification does not prevent binding to cholesterol, but subsequent release and oligomer formation are blocked.


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