Bacterial two-component and hetero-heptameric pore-forming cytolytic toxins: Structures, pore-forming mechanism, and organization of the genes

Jun Kaneko, Yoshiyuki Kamio

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270 Citations (Scopus)


Staphylococcal γ-hemolysin (Hlg), leukocidin (Luk), and Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) are two-component and hetero-oligomeric pore-forming cytolytic toxins (or cytolysin), that were first identified in bacteria. No information on the existence of hetero-oligomeric pore-forming cytolytic toxins in bacteria except for staphylococcal strains is available so far. HIg (Hlg1 of 34 kDa/Hlg2 of 32 kDa) effectively lyses erythrocytes from human and other mammalian species. Luk (LukF of 34 kDa/LukS of 33 kDa) is cytolytic toward human and rabbit polymorphonuclear leukocytes and rabbit erythrocytes, and PVL (LukF-PV of 34 kDa/LukS-PV of 33 kDa) reveals cytolytic activity with a high cell specificity to leukocytes. Hlg1 is identical to LukF and that the cell specificities of the cytolysins are determined by Hlg2 and LukS. Based on the primary and 3-dimensional structures of the toxin components, Hlg, Luk, and PVL are thought to form a family of proteins. In the first chapter of this article, we describe the molecular basis of the membrane pore-forming nature of Hlg, Luk, and PVL. We also describe a requirement of the phosphorylation of LukS and LukS-PV by protein kinase for their leukocytolytic activity besides their pore formation on human leukocytes. Recently, the assembly mechanism of the LukF and Hlg1 monomers into pore-forming hetero-oligomers of HIg on human erythrocyte membranes has been clarified for the first time by our study using a single-molecular fluorescence imaging technique. We estimated 11 sequential equilibrium constants for the assembly pathway which includes the beginning with membrane binding of monomers, proceeds through single pore oligomerization, and culminates in the formation of clusters of the pores. In the second chapter of this article, we refer to an assembly mechanism of LukF and Hlg2 on human erythrocytes as well as the roles of the membranes of the target cells in pore formation by Hlg. The LukF, LukS, and Hlg2 proteins are derived from the HIg locus (hlg), and have been found in 99% of clinical isolates of Staphylococcus aureus. In contrast, LukF-PV and LukS-PV are derived from the PVL locus (pvl) which is distinct from the hlg locus, and only a small percentage of clinically isolated S. aureus strains carries pvl. Recently, we discovered pvl on the genome of lysogenic bacteriophages, φPVL, and determined the entire gene of the phage. We also demonstrated the phage conversion of S. aureus leading to the production of PVL through the discovery of a PVL-carrying temperate phage, φSLT, from a clinical isolate of S. aureus. In the third chapter of this article, we discuss genetic analyses of the Hlg, Luk, and PVL genes. We also discuss the current status of knowledge of the genetic organization of PVL-converting phages in order to achieve an understanding of their molecular evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-1003
Number of pages23
JournalBioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2004 May


  • Assembly mechanism
  • Phage conversion
  • Single molecular imaging
  • Staphylococcal two-component pore-forming cytolysins
  • Structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Organic Chemistry


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