The Arrangement of Subunits in Cholera Toxin

Biochemistry. 1976 Mar 23;15(6):1242-8. doi: 10.1021/bi00651a011.


Cholera toxin consists of five similar B subunits of apparent molecular weight about 10 600 and one A subunit (29 000) consisting of two peptides (A1 23 000-24 000 and A2 about 5500) linked by a single disulfide bond. Each B subunit also contains one internal disulfide bond which is readily reduced but is protected from carboxymethylation unless the reduced subunits are heated in urea. Tyrosine residues in A1 and in B subunits are readily iodinated, but the intact B assembly does not react with iodine. Upon reaction with the cross-linking reagent dimethyl suberimidate, B subunits may be covalently connected to each other, to A1 and to A2. A1 and A2 may also be cross-linked. The B subunits are probably arranged in a ring with A on the axis. A2 is required for the re-assembly of toxin from its subunits and may serve to hold A1 on the B ring. The maximum activity of cholera toxin in vitro is obtained only when the active peptide, A1, is separated from the rest of the molecule. Such separation, and the insertion of A1 into the cytosol, must follow the binding of the complete toxin, through component B, to the exterior of intact cells. This binding increases the effective concentration of the toxin in the vicinity of the plasma membrane. Possible ways in which A1 then crosses the membrane are considered in the Discussion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Binding Sites
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / analysis
  • Toxins, Biological*
  • Vibrio cholerae / analysis*


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Toxins, Biological
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • Adenylyl Cyclases