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Title page for ETD etd-09122011-113740

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Pruitt, Rory Nelson
URN etd-09122011-113740
Title Structural and functional analysis of Clostridium difficile toxins A and B
Degree PhD
Department Microbiology and Immunology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Timothy L. Cover Committee Chair
D. Borden Lacy Committee Member
Eric P. Skaar Committee Member
John Williams Committee Member
Melanie D. Ohi Committee Member
  • bacterial toxins
  • Clostridium difficile
  • structural biology
Date of Defense 2011-09-06
Availability unrestricted
The pathogenesis of Clostridium difficile is dependent on two large homologous toxins, TcdA and TcdB. These toxins contain glucosyltransferase domains that inactivate host Rho proteins by glucosylation. Delivery of the glucosyltransferase domain into the target cell is achieved by binding to the target cell, pH-dependent translocation of the glucosyltransferase domain across the membrane, and release of the domain by autoproteolysis. These steps in delivery are mediated by receptor-binding, pore-forming, and autoprotease domains. Structures existed for a portion of the TcdA receptor-binding domain and the TcdB glucosyltransferase domain, but there had previously been no structural information for the protease and pore-forming domains or for the holotoxins. I have visualized the TcdA and TcdB holotoxins by negative stain electron microscopy, determined the TcdA three-dimensional structure by random conical tilt, and mapped the TcdA functional domains within this structure. A second structure, obtained at acidic pH, revealed significant structural changes involved in delivery of the glucosyltransferase domain across the membrane. In addition, I have elucidated the structure of the TcdA autoprotease domain and used complementary functional assays to uncover key aspects of its function. Finally, I have determined the structure of the TcdA glucosyltransferase domain. The activity of the TcdA glucosyltransferase domain was compared with that of TcdB and shown to be a potent enzyme with a broader range of substrates than TcdB. These data provide a structural framework for understanding the molecular mechanisms by which TcdA and TcdB deliver their cytotoxic cargo into the target cell and disrupt host processes.
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