Selective and specific internalization of clostridial C3 ADP-ribosyltransferases into macrophages and monocytes

Cell Microbiol. 2010 Feb;12(2):233-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2009.01393.x. Epub 2009 Oct 13.


The C3 transferases from Clostridium botulinum (C3bot) and Clostridium limosum (C3lim) mono-ADP-ribosylate and thereby inactivate RhoA, -B and -C of eukaryotic cells. Due to their extremely poor cellular uptake, C3 transferases were supposed to be exoenzymes rather than exotoxins, challenging their role in pathogenesis. Here, we report for the first time that low concentrations of both C3lim and C3bot are selectively internalized into macrophages/monocytes in less than 3 h, inducing the reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton by ADP-ribosylation of Rho. We demonstrate that C3 transferases are internalized into the cytosol of macrophages/monocytes via acidified early endosomes. Bafilomycin A1, an inhibitor of endosomal acidification, protected J774A.1 macrophages and human promyelotic leukaemia cells (HL-60) from intoxication by C3. Moreover, confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed colocalization of C3 with early endosomes. An extracellular acidic pulse enabled direct translocation of cell surface-bound C3 across the cytoplasmic membrane to the cytosol. In line with this finding, both C3 proteins exhibited membrane activity in lipid bilayer membranes only under acidic conditions (pH < 5.5). In conclusion, we identified macrophages/monocytes as target cells for clostridial C3 transferases and shed light on their selective uptake mechanism, which might contribute to understand the role of C3 transferases in pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ADP Ribose Transferases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • Clostridium / enzymology*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Endocytosis / drug effects
  • Endocytosis / physiology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism
  • Macrolides / pharmacology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Monocytes / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Transport / drug effects
  • Protein Transport / physiology*


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Macrolides
  • bafilomycin A1
  • ADP Ribose Transferases