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Anthrax lethal toxin inhibits translation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 and causes decreased tolerance to hypoxic stress

Ouyang, W;Torigoe, C;Fang, H;Xie, T;Frucht, DM;

Hypoxia is considered to be a contributor to the pathology associated with administration of anthrax lethal toxin (LT). However, we report here that serum lactate levels in LT-treated mice are reduced, a finding inconsistent with the anaerobic metabolism expected to occur during hypoxia. Reduced lactate levels are also observed in the culture supernatants of LT-treated cells. LT inhibits the accumulation of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1, a subunit of HIF-1, the master regulator directing cellular responses to hypoxia. The toxin has no effect on the transcription or protein turnover of HIF-1, but instead it acts to inhibit HIF-1 translation. LT treatment diminishes phosphorylation of eIF4B, eIF4E, and rpS6, critical components of the intracellular machinery required for HIF-1 translation. Moreover, blockade of MKK1/2-ERK1/2, but not p38 or JNK signaling, lowers HIF-1 protein levels in both normoxic and hypoxic conditions, consistent with a role for MKK1 and MKK2 as the major targets of LT responsible for the inhibition of HIF-1 translation. The physiological importance of the LT-induced translation blockade is demonstrated by the finding that LT treatment decreases the survival of hepatocyte cell lines grown in hypoxic conditions, an effect that is overcome by preinduction of HIF-1. Taken together, these data support a role for LT in dysregulating HIF-1 and thereby disrupting homeostatic responses to hypoxia, an environmental characteristic of certain tissues at baseline and/or during disseminated infection with Bacillus anthracis.