Functional regions of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa cytotoxin ExoU

Shira D P Rabin, Alan R Hauser
Infection and Immunity 2005, 73 (1): 573-82
ExoU, a potent patatin-like phospholipase, causes rapid cell death following its injection into host cells by the Pseudomonas aeruginosa type III secretion system. To better define regions of ExoU required for cytotoxicity, transposon-based linker insertion mutagenesis followed by site-directed mutagenesis of individual residues was employed by using a Saccharomyces cerevisiae model system. Random insertion of five amino acids identified multiple regions within ExoU that are required for cell killing. Five regions were chosen for further characterization: three corresponded to the oxyanion hole, hydrolase motif, and catalytic aspartate motif of the patatin-like domain within the N-terminal half of ExoU; one corresponded to an uncharacterized part of the patatin-like domain; and one corresponded to a region near the C terminus. Specific individual amino acid substitutions in each of the four N-terminal regions prevented killing of yeast and significantly reduced phospholipase activity. Whereas five amino acid insertions in the fifth region near the C terminus markedly reduced cytotoxicity and phospholipase activity, substitution of individual amino acids did not abolish either activity. To determine whether each of the five identified regions of ExoU was also essential for cytotoxicity in human cells, representative mutant forms of ExoU fused to green fluorescent protein were expressed in HeLa cells. These variants of ExoU were readily visualized and caused minimal cytotoxicity to HeLa cells, while wild-type ExoU fused to green fluorescent protein induced significant cell lysis and no detectable fluorescence. Thus, a minimum of five regions, including one which is well removed from the patatin-like domain, are required for the cytotoxicity and phospholipase activity of ExoU.

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