Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 21454565
J. Biol. Chem. 2011 May;286(19):16997-7004
Ligand-induced disorder-to-order transition plays a key role in the biological functions of many proteins that contain intrinsically disordered regions. This trait is exhibited by so-called RTX (repeat-in-toxin) motifs found in many virulence factors secreted by numerous gram-negative pathogenic bacteria: RTX proteins are natively disordered in the absence of calcium but fold upon calcium binding. The adenylate cyclase toxin (CyaA) produced by Bordetella pertussis, the causative agent of whooping cough, contains ∼40 RTX motifs organized in five successive blocks separated by non-RTX flanking regions. This RTX domain mediates toxin binding to its eukaryotic cell receptor. We previously showed that the last block of the RTX domain, block V, which is critical for CyaA toxicity, exhibits the hallmarks of intrinsically disordered proteins in the absence of calcium. Moreover, the C-terminal flanking region of CyaA block V is required for its calcium-induced folding. Here, we describe a comprehensive analysis of the hydrodynamic and electrophoretic properties of several block V RTX polypeptides that differ in the presence and/or length of the flanking regions. Our results indicate that the length of the C-terminal flanking region not only controls the calcium-induced folding but also the calcium-induced multimerization of the RTX polypeptides. Moreover, we showed that calcium binding is accompanied by a strong reduction of the net charge of the RTX polypeptides. These data indicate that the disorder-to-order transition in RTX proteins is controlled by a calcium-induced change of the polypeptide charges and stabilized by multimerization.