Consequences and utility of the zinc-dependent metalloprotease activity of anthrax lethal toxin

Toxins (Basel). 2010 May;2(5):1038-53. doi: 10.3390/toxins2051038. Epub 2010 May 11.


Anthrax is caused by the gram-positive bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The pathogenesis of this disease is dependent on the presence of two binary toxins, edema toxin (EdTx) and lethal toxin (LeTx). LeTx, the major virulence factor contributing to anthrax, contains the effector moiety lethal factor (LF), a zinc-dependent metalloprotease specific for targeting mitogen-activated protein kinase kinases. This review will focus on the protease-specific activity and function of LF, and will include a discussion on the implications and consequences of this activity, both in terms of anthrax disease, and how this activity can be exploited to gain insight into other pathologic conditions.

Keywords: anthrax; lethal factor; metalloprotease; mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase; pathogenesis; retinal neovascularization; tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthrax / enzymology
  • Antigens, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Bacillus anthracis / enzymology
  • Bacillus anthracis / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Metalloproteases / metabolism*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • anthrax toxin
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases
  • Metalloproteases
  • Zinc