Structure-function analyses of a pertussis-like toxin from pathogenic Escherichia coli reveal a distinct mechanism of inhibition of trimeric G-proteins

Dene R. Littler, Sheng Y. Ang, Danilo G. Moriel, Martina Kocan, Oded Kleifeld, Matthew D. Johnson, Mai T. Tran, Adrienne Webster Paton, James C Paton, Roger J. Summers, Mark A. Schembri, Jamie Rossjohn, Travis Beddoe

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Pertussis-like toxins are secreted by several bacterial pathogens during infection. They belong to the AB5 virulence factors, which bind to glycans on host cell membranes for internalization. Host cell recognition and internalization are mediated by toxin B subunits sharing a unique pentameric ring-like assembly. Although the role of pertussis toxin in whooping cough is well-established, pertussis-like toxins produced by other bacteria are less studied, and their mechanisms of action are unclear. Here, we report that some extra-intestinal Escherichia coli pathogens (i.e. those that reside in the gut but can spread to other bodily locations) encode a pertussis-like toxin that inhibits mammalian cell growth in vitro. We found that this protein, EcPlt, is related to toxins produced by both nontyphoidal and typhoidal Salmonella serovars. Pertussis-like toxins are secreted as disulfide-bonded heterohexamers in which the catalytic ADP-ribosyltransferase subunit is activated when exposed to the reducing environment in mammalian cells. We found here that the reduced EcPlt exhibits large structural rearrangements associated with its activation. We noted that inhibitory residues tethered within the NAD+-binding site by an intramolecular disulfide in the oxidized state dissociate upon the reduction and enable loop restructuring to form the nucleotide-binding site. Surprisingly, although pertussis toxin targets a cysteine residue within the α subunit of inhibitory trimeric G-proteins, we observed that activated EcPlt toxin modifies a proximal lysine/asparagine residue instead. In conclusion, our results reveal the molecular mechanism underpinning activation of pertussis-like toxins, and we also identified differences in host target specificity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15143-15158
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number36
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2017


  • ADP-ribosylation
  • Bacterial adhesion
  • Bordetella pertussis
  • cholera toxin
  • Escherichia coli (E.Coli)
  • host-pathogen interaction
  • toxin

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