Journal article

Movement of a loop in domain 3 of aerolysin is required for channel formation

Aerolysin is a channel-forming toxin that must oligomerize in order to become insertion-competent. Modeling based on the crystal structure of the proaerolysin dimer and electron microscopic images of the oligomer indicated that a loop in domain 3 must move away from the beta-sheet that forms the main body of the protein before oligomerization can proceed. In order to determine if movement actually occurs, strategically located amino acids in the loop and in the sheet were replaced with cysteines by site-directed mutagenesis. A double mutant was produced in which the new cysteines, at position 253 on the loop and position 300 in the sheet, were close enough together to allow formation of a disulfide bridge. The double mutant was unable to oligomerize, and it was completely inactive, showing not only that the bridge had formed but also that movement of the loop was essential for formation of the oligomer. The existence of the bridge was confirmed by X-ray crystallography. The reduced form of the protein and the single mutants T253C and A300C were as active as wild type, indicating that the amino acid replacements themselves had no functional consequences. Labeling studies using an environment-sensitive fluorescent sulfhydryl-reactive probe confirmed that the structure of the protein changes in the loop region as a consequence of proteolytic activation of proaerolysin, a step which also must precede oligomerization.


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