Modifications in Perfringolysin O Domain 4 Alter the Cholesterol Concentration Threshold Required for Binding
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Changes in the cholesterol content of cell membranes affect many physiological and pathological events, including the formation of arterial plaques, the entry of virus into cells, and receptor organization. Measuring the trafficking and distribution of cholesterol is essential to understanding how cells regulate sterol levels in membranes. Perfringolysin O (PFO) is a cytolysin secreted by Clostridium perfringens that requires cholesterol in the target membrane for binding. The specificity of PFO for high levels of cholesterol makes the toxin an attractive tool for studying the distribution and trafficking of cholesterol in cells. However, the use of the native toxin is limited given that binding is triggered only above a determined cholesterol concentration. To this end, we have identified mutations in PFO that altered the threshold for how much cholesterol is required to trigger binding. The cholesterol threshold among different PFO derivatives varied up to 10 mol % sterol, and these variations were not dependent on the lipid composition of the membrane. We characterized the binding of these PFO derivatives on murine macrophage-like cells whose cholesterol content was reduced or augmented. Our findings revealed that engineered PFO derivatives differentially associated with these cells in response to changes in cholesterol levels in the plasma membrane.
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