Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab mutants affecting oligomer formation are non-toxic to Manduca sexta larvae.J Biol Chem. 2007 Jul 20; 282(29):21222-9.JB
Pore-forming toxins are biological weapons produced by a variety of living organisms, particularly bacteria but also by insects, reptiles, and invertebrates. These proteins affect the cell membrane of their target, disrupting permeability and leading eventually to cell death. The pore-forming toxins typically transform from soluble, monomeric proteins to oligomers that form transmembrane channels. The Cry toxins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis are widely used as insecticides. These proteins have been recognized as pore-forming toxins, and their primary action is to lyse midgut epithelial cells in their target insect. To exert their toxic effect, a prepore oligomeric intermediate is formed leading finally to membrane-inserted oligomeric pores. To understand the role of Cry oligomeric pre-pore formation in the insecticidal activity we isolated point mutations that affected toxin oligomerization but not their binding with the cadherin-like, Bt-R(1) receptor. We show the helix alpha-3 in domain I contains sequences that could form coiled-coil structures important for oligomerization. Some single point mutants in this helix bound Bt-R(1) receptors with similar affinity as the wild-type toxin, but were affected in oligomerization and were severally impaired in pore formation and toxicity against Manduca sexta larvae. These data indicate the pre-pore oligomer and the toxin pore formation play a major role in the intoxication process of Cry1Ab toxin in insect larvae.