Activation of ExoU phospholipase activity requires specific C-terminal regions

Katherine M Schmalzer, Marc A Benson, Dara W Frank
Journal of Bacteriology 2010, 192 (7): 1801-12
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen that utilizes a type III secretion system to subvert host innate immunity. Of the 4 known effector proteins injected into eukaryotic cells, ExoS and ExoU are cytotoxic. The cytotoxic phenotype of ExoU depends on the enzymatic activity of the patatin-like phospholipase A(2) domain localized to the N-terminal half of the protein. Amino acid residues located within the C-terminal region of ExoU are postulated to be required for trafficking or localization to the plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells. This report describes the characterization of a transposon-based linker insertion library in ExoU. Utilizing an unbiased screening approach and sensitive methods for measuring enzymatic activity, we identified regions of ExoU that are critical for activation of the phospholipase activity by the only known cofactor, SOD1. Insertions at D572 and L618 reduced the rate of substrate cleavage. Enzymatic activity could be restored to almost parental levels when SOD1 concentrations were increased, suggesting that the linker insertion disrupted the interaction between ExoU and SOD1. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)-based binding test was developed to measure ExoU-SOD1 binding. These experiments suggest that ExoU activation by SOD1 is hampered by linker insertion. ExoU derivatives harboring minimal phospholipase activity retained biological activity in tissue culture assays. These proteins affected primarily cellular architecture in a manner similar to that of ExoT. Our studies suggest that conformational changes in ExoU are facilitated by SOD1. Importantly, the level of phospholipase activity influences the biological outcome of ExoU intoxication.

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