Infection and immunity

A Heterologous Reporter Defines the Role of the Tetanus Toxin Interchain Disulfide in Light-Chain Translocation.

PMID 25895970


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) and tetanus toxin (TeNT) are the most potent toxins for humans and elicit unique pathologies due to their ability to traffic within motor neurons. BoNTs act locally within motor neurons to elicit flaccid paralysis, while retrograde TeNT traffics to inhibitory neurons within the central nervous system (CNS) to elicit spastic paralysis. BoNT and TeNT are dichain proteins linked by an interchain disulfide bond comprised of an N-terminal catalytic light chain (LC) and a C-terminal heavy chain (HC) that encodes an LC translocation domain (HCT) and a receptor-binding domain (HCR). LC translocation is the least understood property of toxin action, but it involves low pH, proteolysis, and an intact interchain disulfide bridge. Recently, Pirazzini et al. (FEBS Lett 587:150-155, 2013, observed that inhibitors of thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) blocked TeNT and BoNT action in cerebellar granular neurons. In the current study, an atoxic TeNT LC translocation reporter was engineered by fusing β-lactamase to the N terminus of TeNT [βlac-TeNT(RY)] to investigate LC translocation in primary cortical neurons and Neuro-2a cells. βlac-TeNT(RY) retained the interchain disulfide bond, showed ganglioside-dependent binding to neurons, required acidification to promote βlac translocation, and was sensitive to auranofin, an inhibitor of thioredoxin reductase. Mutation of βlac-TeNT(RY) at C439S and C467S eliminated the interchain disulfide bond and inhibited βlac translocation. These data support the requirement of an intact interchain disulfide for LC translocation and imply that disulfide reduction is a prerequisite for LC delivery into the host cytosol. The data also support a model that LC translocation proceeds from the C to the N terminus. βlac-TeNT(RY) is the first reporter system to measure translocation by an AB single-chain toxin in intact cells.