Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 18693250
J. Biol. Chem. 2008 Oct;283(41):27668-76
The translocation of the catalytic domain through the membrane of the endosome to the cell cytoplasm is a key step of intoxication by botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT). This step is mediated by the translocation (T) domain upon endosome acidification, although the mechanism of interaction of the T domain with the membrane is still poorly understood. Using physicochemical approaches and spectroscopic methods, we studied the interaction of the BoNT/A T domain with the membrane as a function of pH. We found that the interaction with membranes does not involve major secondary or tertiary structural changes, as reported for other toxins like diphtheria toxin. The T domain becomes insoluble around its pI value and then penetrates into the membrane. At that stage, the T domain becomes able to permeabilize lipid vesicles. This occurs for pH values lower than 5.5, in agreement with the pH encountered by the toxin within endosomes. Electrostatic interactions are also important for the process. The role of the so-called belt region was investigated with four variant proteins presenting different lengths of the N-extremity of the T domain. We observed that this part of the T domain, which contains numerous negatively charged residues, limits the protein-membrane interaction. Indeed, interaction with the membrane of the protein deleted of this extremity takes place for higher pH values than for the entire T domain. Overall, the data suggest that acidification eliminates repulsive electrostatic interactions between the T domain and the membrane, allowing its penetration into the membrane without triggering detectable structural changes.