A molecular dynamics model of the Bt toxin Cyt1A and its validation by resonance energy transfer

Xiaochuan Li, University of Southern Mississippi
Kerrick J. Nevels, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

Cyt1A is a cytolytic toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis. A computer model of the toxin in solution was generated and validated by resonance energy transfer (RET). The average distance between the two tryptophans (residues 158 and 161) and the fluorescently labeled cysteine 190 was 2.16 nm. which closely matched the distance predicted in computer simulations, 2.2 nm. The simulation results were able to explain two previous experimental observations: (i) amino-acid sequences of all Cyt toxins contain four blocks of highly conserved residues; and (ii) several single-point mutations drastically abrogated Cyt1A's toxicity. Selective randomization of atomic coordinates in the computer model revealed that the conserved blocks are important for proper folding and stability of the toxin molecule. Replacing lysine 225 with alanine, a mutation that renders the toxin inactive, was shown to result in breaking the hydrogen bonds between K225 and V126, L123, and Y189. Calculated Helmholtz free energy difference of the inactive mutation K225A was higher by 12 kcal/mol and 5 kcal/mol than the values for the benign mutations K118A and K198A, respectively, which indicates that the K225A mutant is significantly destabilized. The normal-mode and principal-component analyses revealed that in the wild-type Cyt1A the region around the residue K225 is quite stationary, due to the hydrogen-bond network around K225. In contrast, pronounced twisting and stretching were observed in the mutant K225A, and the region around the residue K225 becomes unstable. Our results indicate that conformational differences in this mutant spread far away from the site of the mutation, suggesting that the mutant is inactivated due to an overall change in conformation and diminished stability rather than due to a localized alteration of a "binding" or "active" site. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.