Sensitivity of polarized epithelial cells to the pore-forming toxin aerolysin

Aerolysin is one of the major virulence factors produced by Aeromonas hydrophila, a human pathogen that produces deep wound infection and gastroenteritis. The toxin interacts with target mammalian cells by binding to the glycan core of glycosylphosphatidyl inositol (GPI)-anchored proteins and subsequently forms a pore in the plasma membrane. Since epithelial cells of the intestine are the primary targets of aerolysin, we investigated its effect on three types of polarized epithelial cells: Caco-2 cells, derived from human intestine; MDCK cells, a well-characterized cell line in terms of protein targeting; and FRT cells, an unusual cell line in that it targets its GPI-anchored proteins to the basolateral plasma membrane in contrast to other epithelial cells, which target them almost exclusively to the apical surface. Surprisingly, we found that all three cell types were sensitive to the toxin from both the apical and the basolateral sides. Apical sensitivity was always higher, even for FRT cells. In contrast, FRT cells were more sensitive from the basolateral than from the apical side to the related toxin Clostridium septicum alpha-toxin, which also binds to GPI-anchored proteins but lacks the lectin binding domain found in aerolysin. These observations are consistent with the notion that a shuttling mechanism involving low-affinity interactions with surface sugars allows aerolysin to gradually move toward the membrane surface, where it can finally encounter the glycan cores of GPI-anchored proteins.

Published in:
Infect Immun, 71, 2, 739-46
Department of Genetics and Microbiology, University of Geneva, Switzerland.

 Record created 2009-01-30, last modified 2018-03-17

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