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Electrostatic interactions between the CTX phage minor coat protein and the bacterial host receptor TolA drive the pathogenic conversion of Vibrio cholerae

Abstract : Vibrio cholerae is a natural inhabitant of aquatic environments and converts to a pathogen upon infection by a filamentous phage, CTXΦ, that transmits the cholera toxin encoding genes. This toxigenic conversion of V. cholerae has evident implication in both genome plasticity and epidemic risk, but the early stages of the infection have not been thoroughly studied. CTXΦ transit across the bacterial periplasm requires binding between the minor coat protein named pIII and a bacterial inner-membrane receptor, TolA, which is part of the conserved Tol-Pal molecular motor. To gain insight into the TolA-pIII complex, we developed a bacterial two-hybrid approach, named Oxi-BTH, suited for studying the interactions between disulfide bond-folded proteins in the bacterial cytoplasm of an E. coli reporter strain. We found that two of the four disulfide bonds of pIII are required for its interaction with TolA. By combining Oxi-BTH assays, NMR, and genetic studies, we also demonstrate that two intermolecular salt bridges between TolA and pIII provide the driving forces of the complex interaction. Moreover, we show that TolA residue R325 involved in one of the two salt bridges is critical for proper functioning of the Tol-Pal system. Our results imply that to prevent host evasion, CTXΦ uses an infection strategy that targets a highly conserved protein of Gram-negative bacteria essential for the fitness of V. cholerae in its natural environment.
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Laetitia Houot, Romain Navarro, Matthieu Nouailler, Denis Duché, Francoise Guerlesquin, et al.. Electrostatic interactions between the CTX phage minor coat protein and the bacterial host receptor TolA drive the pathogenic conversion of Vibrio cholerae. Journal of Biological Chemistry, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2017, 292 (33), pp.13584 - 13598. ⟨10.1074/jbc.M117.786061⟩. ⟨hal-01788175⟩

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