Cellular uptake of Clostridium difficile TcdA and truncated TcdA lacking the receptor binding domain

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Abstract

The combined repetitive oligopeptides (CROPs) of Clostridium difficile toxins A (TcdA) and B (TcdB) induce clathrin-mediated endocytosis of the toxins. Inconsistently, CROP-truncated TcdA1–1874 is also capable of entering host cells and displaying full cytotoxic properties although with less potency. Pre-incubation of cells with isolated CROPs, however, reconstitutes the reduced uptake of TcdA1–1874 to the level of the full-length toxin. We believe that TcdA exhibits an additional binding motif beyond the C-terminally located CROP domain, which might interact with cellular receptor structures that are associated with alternative internalization pathways. This study therefore evaluated endocytosis routes of CROP-dependent cellular uptake for TcdA and CROP-independent cellular uptake for TcdA1–1874. Clathrin knockdown or inhibition with chlorpromazine affected subsequent internalization of TcdA and TcdA1–1874, although only to some extent, arguing for alternative, clathrin-independent endocytosis routes. Inhibition of dynamin, a GTPase essentially involved in clathrin-mediated endocytosis as well as in various clathrin-independent uptake mechanisms, affected uptake of TcdA to the same extent as clathrin inhibition. In contrast, uptake of TcdA1–1874 was almost completely eliminated in dynamin-inhibited cells. Thus, clathrin-independent uptake of TcdA1–1874 presumably depends on dynamin. These findings demonstrate that the toxins are endocytosed via complex pathways involving clathrin and dynamin, putatively enabling them to adapt to mechanisms of various cell types. With regard to the emergence of C. difficile strains producing C-terminally truncated toxins, this study emphasizes the relevance of elucidating toxin uptake as a prerequisite for the development of toxin intervention strategies.

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