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Calpain-dependent cytoskeletal rearrangement exploited for anthrax toxin endocytosis

Jeong, SY;Martchenko, M;Cohen, SN;

The protective antigen component of Bacillus anthracis toxins can interact with at least three distinct proteins on the host cell surface, capillary morphogenesis gene 2 (CMG2), tumor endothelial marker 8, and 1-integrin, and, with the assistance of other host proteins, enters targeted cells by receptor-mediated endocytosis. Using an antisense-based phenotypic screen, we discovered the role of calpains in this process. We show that functions of a ubiquitous Ca(2+)-dependent cysteine protease, calpain-2, and of the calpain substrate talin-1 are exploited for association of anthrax toxin and its principal receptor, CMG2, with higher-order actin filaments and consequently for toxin entry into host cells. Down-regulated expression of calpain-2 or talin-1, or pharmacological interference with calpain action, did not affect toxin binding but reduced endocytosis and increased the survival of cells exposed to anthrax lethal toxin. Adventitious expression of wild-type talin-1 promoted toxin endocytosis and lethality, whereas expression of a talin-1 mutant (L432G) that is insensitive to calpain cleavage did not. Disruption of talin-1, which links integrin-containing focal adhesion complexes to the actin cytoskeleton, facilitated association of toxin bound to its principal cell-surface receptor, CMG2, with higher-order actin filaments undergoing dynamic disassembly and reassembly during endocytosis. Our results reveal a mechanism by which a bacterial toxin uses constitutively occurring calpain-mediated cytoskeletal rearrangement for internalization.