Rolando M, Munro P, Stefani C, Auberger P, Flatau G, Lemichez E
Infect. Immun. 2009 Sep;77(9):3596-601
Systemic injection of Bacillus anthracis lethal toxin (LT) produces vascular leakage and animal death. Recent studies suggest that LT triggers direct endothelial cell cytotoxicity that is responsible for the vascular leakage. LT is composed of heptamers of protective antigen (PA), which drives the endocytosis and translocation into host cells of the lethal factor (LF), a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase protease. Here we investigated the consequences of injection of an endothelium-permeabilizing factor using LT as a « molecular syringe. » To this end, we generated the chimeric factor LE, corresponding to the PA-binding domain of LF (LF(1-254)) fused to EDIN exoenzyme. EDIN ADP ribosylates RhoA, leading to actin cable disruption and formation of transcellular tunnels in endothelial cells. We report that systemic injection of LET (LE plus PA) triggers a PA-dependent increase in the pulmonary endothelium permeability. We also report that native LT induces a progressive loss of endothelium barrier function. We established that there is a direct correlation between the extent of endothelium permeability induced by LT and the cytotoxic activity of LT. This suggests new ways to design therapeutic drugs against anthrax directed toward vascular permeability.