Craven R, Lacy DB. Clostridium sordellii Lethal-Toxin Autoprocessing and Membrane Localization Activities Drive GTPase Glucosylation Profiles in Endothelial Cells. MSphere. 1(1). PMID: 27303685 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC4863631
Clostridium sordellii infections cause gangrene and edema in humans and gastrointestinal infections in livestock. One of the principle virulence factors is TcsL, a large protein toxin which glucosylates host GTPases to cause cytopathic and cytotoxic effects. TcsL has two enzymatic domains, an N-terminal glucosyltransferase domain (GTD) and an autoprocessing domain responsible for release of the GTD within the cell. The GTD can then use its N-terminal membrane localization domain (MLD) for orientation on membranes and modification of GTPases. This study describes the use of conditionally immortalized murine pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells as a model for the study of TcsL functional activities. Point mutations that disrupt the glucosyltransferase, autoprocessing, or membrane localization activities were introduced into a recombinant version of TcsL, and the activities of these mutants were compared to those of wild-type toxin. We observed that all mutants are defective or impaired in cytotoxicity but differ in their modification of Rac1 and Ras. The data suggest a model where differences in GTPase localization dictate cellular responses to intoxication and highlight the importance of autoprocessing in the function of TcsL. IMPORTANCE Clostridium sordellii is a bacterium that can infect humans and cause serious disease and death. The principle virulence factor associated with clinical symptoms is a large protein toxin known as lethal toxin. The mechanism of lethal-toxin intoxication is assumed to be similar to that of the homologous toxins from C. difficile, but very few studies have been done in the context of endothelial cells, a relevant target in C. sordellii infections. This study was designed to test the role of the lethal-toxin enzymatic activities and membrane localization in endothelial cell toxicity and host substrate modification.