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The cytolethal distending toxins (CDTs) produced by many Gram-negative pathogens are tripartite genotoxins with a single catalytic subunit (CdtB) and two cell-binding subunits (CdtA + CdtC). CDT moves by vesicle carriers from the cell surface to the endosomes and through the Golgi apparatus en route to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). CdtA dissociates from the rest of the toxin before reaching the Golgi apparatus, and CdtB separates from CdtC in the ER. The free CdtB subunit, which is only active after holotoxin disassembly, then crosses the ER membrane and enters the nucleus where it generates DNA breaks. We hypothesized that the acidified lumen of the endosomes is responsible for separating CdtA from the CdtB/CdtC heterodimer. To test this prediction, possible acid-induced disruptions to the CDT holotoxin were monitored by size exclusion chromatography and surface plasmon resonance. We found that CDT could not efficiently assemble from its individual subunits at the early endosome pH of 6.3. Partial disassembly of the CDT holotoxin also occurred at pH 6.3, with complete separation of CdtA from an intact CdtB/CdtC heterodimer occurring at both pH 6.0 and the late endosome pH of 5.6. Acidification caused the precipitation of CdtA at pH 6.5 and below, but neither CdtB nor CdtC were affected by a pH as low as 5.2. Circular dichroism further showed that the individual CdtB subunit adopts a different secondary structure as compared to its structure in the holotoxin. We conclude the first stage of CDT disassembly occurs in the early endosomes, where an acid-induced alteration to CdtA releases it from the CdtB/CdtC heterodimer. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


G Robb Huhn, Celine Sparkes, Isabel Silva, Carla Reyes, Gisselle Perez, Fatema Khondker, Teriana Jones, Ashley Fragoso, Paula Contreras, Michelle Alvarez, Maria C Zabala-Rodriguez, Suren A Tatulian, Ken Teter. Acid-induced disassembly of the Haemophilus ducreyi cytolethal distending toxin. Biochemical and biophysical research communications. 2022 Dec 25;636(Pt 1):57-63

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PMID: 36332483

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