The repeat in toxin (Rtx) of an environmental isolate ATCC 7966 of Aeromonas hydrophila consists of six genes (rtxACHBDE) organized in an operon similar to the gene organization found for the Rtx of the Vibrio species. The first gene in this operon (rtxA) encodes an exotoxin in vibrios, while other genes code for proteins needed for proper activation of RtxA and in secretion of this toxin from Vibrio cholerae. However, the RtxA of ATCC 7966, as well as from the clinical isolate SSU of A. hydrophila, was exclusively expressed and produced during co-infection of this pathogen with the host, e.g., HeLa cells, indicating that rtxA gene expression required host cell contact. Within the RtxA, an actin cross-linking domain (ACD) exists and to investigate the functionality of this domain, several truncated versions of ACD were generated to discern its minimal biological active region. Such genetically modified genes encoding ACD, which were truncated on either the NH 2 or the COOH terminal, as well as on both ends, were expressed from a bidirectional promoter of the pBI-enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) vector in a HeLa-Tet-Off cell system. We demonstrated that only the full-length ACD of RtxA from A. hydrophila catalyzed the covalent cross-linking of the host cellular actin, whereas the ACD truncated on the NH 2, COOH or both ends did not exhibit such actin cross-linking characteristics. Further, we showed that the full-length ACD of A. hydrophila RtxA disrupted the actin cytoskeleton of HeLa cells, resulting in their rounding phenotype. Finally, our data provided evidence that the full-length ACD of RtxA induced host cell apoptosis. Our study is the first to report that A. hydrophila possesses a functional RtxA having an ACD that contributes to the host cell apoptosis, and hence could represent a potential virulence factor of this emerging human pathogen.
- A. hydrophila
- Actin cross-linking domain (ACD)
- Cell rounding
- HeLa Tet-Off system
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