Helicobacter pylori VacA subdomain required for intracellular toxin activity and assembly of functional oligomeric complexes.


Helicobacter pylori VacA is a secreted pore-forming toxin that is comprised of two domains, designated p33 and p55. The p55 domain has an important role in the binding of VacA to eukaryotic cell surfaces. A total of 111 residues at the amino terminus of p55 (residues 312 to 422) are essential for the intracellular activity of VacA, which suggests that this region may constitute a subdomain with an activity distinct from cell binding. To investigate the properties of this subdomain, a small deletion mutation (targeting aspartic acid 346 and glycine 347) was introduced into the H. pylori chromosomal vacA gene. Similar to wild-type VacA, the VacA Delta346-347 mutant protein was proteolytically processed, secreted, and bound to eukaryotic cells. However, VacA Delta346-347 did not cause cell vacuolation or membrane depolarization, and it was impaired in the ability to assemble into large water-soluble oligomeric structures. Interestingly, VacA Delta346-347 was able to physically interact with wild-type VacA to form mixed oligomeric complexes, and VacA Delta346-347 inhibited wild-type vacuolating activity in a dominant-negative manner. These data indicate that the assembly of functional oligomeric VacA complexes is dependent on specific sequences, including amino acids 346 and 347, within the p55 amino-terminal subdomain.