Research ArticleMICROBIOLOGY

Common architecture of Tc toxins from human and insect pathogenic bacteria

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  16 Oct 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 10, eaax6497
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax6497


Tc toxins use a syringe-like mechanism to penetrate the membrane and translocate toxic enzymes into the host cytosol. They are composed of three components: TcA, TcB, and TcC. Low-resolution structures of TcAs from different bacteria suggest a considerable difference in their architecture and possibly in their mechanism of action. Here, we present high-resolution structures of five TcAs from insect and human pathogens, which show a similar overall composition and domain organization. Essential structural features, including a trefoil protein knot, are present in all TcAs, suggesting a common mechanism of action. All TcAs form functional pores and can be combined with TcB-TcC subunits from other species to form active chimeric holotoxins. We identified a conserved ionic pair that stabilizes the shell, likely operating as a strong latch that only springs open after destabilization of other regions. Our results provide new insights into the architecture and mechanism of the Tc toxin family.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text