The catalytic domains of Clostridium sordellii lethal toxin and related large clostridial glucosylating toxins specifically recognize the negatively charged phospholipids phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid.


Clostridium sordellii lethal toxin (TcsL) is a potent virulence factor belonging to the large clostridial glucosylating toxin family. TcsL enters target cells via receptor-mediated endocytosis and delivers the N-terminal catalytic domain (TcsL-cat) into the cytosol upon an autoproteolytic process. TcsL-cat inactivates small GTPases including Rac and Ras by glucosylation with uridine-diphosphate (UDP)-glucose as cofactor leading to drastic changes in cytoskeleton and cell viability. TcsL-cat was found to preferentially bind to phosphatidylserine (PS)-containing membranes and to increase the glucosylation of Rac anchored to lipid membrane. We here report binding affinity measurements of TcsL-cat for brain PS-containing membranes by surface plasmon resonance and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In addition, TcsL-cat bound to phosphatidic acid (PA) and, to a lesser extent, to other anionic lipids, but not to neutral lipids, sphingolipids or sterol. We further show that the lipid unsaturation status influenced TcsL-cat binding to phospholipids, PS with unsaturated acyl chains and PA with saturated acyl chains being the preferred bindingsubstrates. Phospholipid binding site is localized at the N-terminal four helical bundle structure (1-93 domain). However, TcsL-1-93 bound to a broad range of substrates, whereas TcsL-cat, which is the active domain physiologically delivered into the cytosol, selectively bound to PS and PA. Similar findings were observed with the other large clostridial glucosylating toxins from C. difficile, C. novyi and C. perfringens.