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Identification of TFPI as a receptor reveals recombination-driven receptor switching in Clostridioides difficile toxin B variants

Tian, S;Xiong, X;Zeng, J;Wang, S;Tremblay, BJ;Chen, P;Chen, B;Liu, M;Chen, P;Sheng, K;Zeve, D;Qi, W;Breault, DT;Rodríguez, C;Gerhard, R;Jin, R;Doxey, AC;Dong, M;

Toxin B (TcdB) is a major exotoxin responsible for diseases associated with Clostridioides difficile infection. Its sequence variations among clinical isolates may contribute to the difficulty in developing effective therapeutics. Here, we investigate receptor-binding specificity of major TcdB subtypes (TcdB1 to TcdB12). We find that representative members of subtypes 2, 4, 7, 10, 11, and 12 do not recognize the established host receptor, frizzled proteins (FZDs). Using a genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9-mediated screen, we identify tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) as a host receptor for TcdB4. TFPI is recognized by a region in TcdB4 that is homologous to the FZD-binding site in TcdB1. Analysis of 206 TcdB variant sequences reveals a set of six residues within this receptor-binding site that defines a TFPI binding-associated haplotype (designated B4/B7) that is present in all TcdB4 members, a subset of TcdB7, and one member of TcdB2. Intragenic micro-recombination (IR) events have occurred around this receptor-binding region in TcdB7 and TcdB2 members, resulting in either TFPI- or FZD-binding capabilities. Introduction of B4/B7-haplotype residues into TcdB1 enables dual recognition of TFPI and FZDs. Finally, TcdB10 also recognizes TFPI, although it does not belong to the B4/B7 haplotype, and shows species selectivity: it recognizes TFPI of chicken and to a lesser degree mouse, but not human, dog, or cattle versions. These findings identify TFPI as a TcdB receptor and reveal IR-driven changes on receptor-specificity among TcdB variants.