Structural Studies on Actin-ADP Ribosylating Binary Toxin From C. Difficile

  • Amit Sundriyal

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is a serious problem within the healthcare environment where the bacterium causes symptoms ranging from mild diarrhoea to life-threatening colitis. In addition to its principal virulent factors, Toxin A and Toxin B, some C. difficile strains produce a binary toxin (CDT) composed of two subunits namely CDTa and CDTb that are produced and secreted from the cell as two separate polypeptides. Once in the gut, these fragments have the potential to combine to form a potent cytotoxin whose role in the pathogenesis of CDI is presently unclear. This thesis is a step towards understanding structural and functional aspects of the binary toxin produced by C. difficile. The first half of this thesis (chapter I and II) provides a brief introduction to the method of structure determination of proteins molecules, i. e. X-ray crystallography and a detailed overview of C. difficile and the three known toxins from C. difficile namely – Toxin A, Toxin B and the binary toxin. Chapter II further focuses on C. difficile binary toxin and other related toxins. These toxins, known as the ADP-ribosylating toxins (ADPRTs) form a big family of potent toxins which includes Cholera, Pertussis and Diphtheria toxins and are capable of transferring the ADP-ribose part of NAD/NADPH to a varity of substrates in the target cell which ultimately results in cell death. The second half of the thesis comprises of experimental procedures that were carried out during the course of this study and their results. Cloning and expression methods for recombinant CDTa and CDTb in bacterial system followed by their purification are described with the abnormal behaviour exhibited by CDTb (chapter III). We show for the first time that purified CDTa and CDTb can combine to form an active CDT which is cytotoxic to Vero cells (Chapter IV). The purification processes described yielded milligram quantities of binary toxin fragments of high purity that led to the successful crystallisation of the proteins (chapter IV) for further functional and structural studies. High resolution crystal structures of CDTa in its native form (at pH 4.0, 8.5 and 9.0) and in complex with the ADP ribose donors -NAD and NADPH (at pH 9.0) have been determined (chapter V). The crystal structures of the native protein show ‘pronounced conformational flexibility’ confined to the active site region of the protein and ‘enhanced’ disorder at low pH while the complex structures highlight significant differences in ‘ligand specificity’ compared with the enzymatic subunit of a close homologue, Clostridium perfringens Iota toxin (Ia). These structural data provide the first detailed information on protein-donor substrate complex stabilisation in CDTa which may have implications in understanding CDT recognition. Crystallisation of CDTb yielded preliminary crystals. The optimisation of these crystallisation conditions is underway. The thesis concludes with some thoughts and discussion on future directions of this research.
Date of Award1 Feb 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRavi Acharya (Supervisor)


  • CDTa
  • CTDb
  • C. difficile
  • ADP-ribosylation
  • binary toxin

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