Involvement of N-glycans in binding of Photorhabdus luminescens Tc toxin

Cell Microbiol. 2021 Aug;23(8):e13326. doi: 10.1111/cmi.13326. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Photorhabdus luminescens Tc toxins are large tripartite ABC-type toxin complexes, composed of TcA, TcB and TcC proteins. Tc toxins are widespread and have shown a tropism for a variety of targets including insect, mammalian and human cells. However, their receptors and the specific mechanisms of uptake into target cells remain unknown. Here, we show that the TcA protein TcdA1 interacts with N-glycans, particularly Lewis X/Y antigens. This is confirmed using N-acetylglucosamine transferase I (Mgat1 gene product)-deficient Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) Lec1 cells, which are highly resistant to intoxication by the Tc toxin complex most likely due to the absence of complex N-glycans. Restoring Mgat1 gene activity, and hence complex N-glycan biosynthesis, recapitulated the sensitivity of these cells to the toxin. Exogenous addition of Lewis X trisaccharide partially inhibits intoxication in wild-type cells. Additionally, sialic acid also largely reduced binding of the Tc toxin. Moreover, proteolytic activation of TcdA1 alters glycan-binding and uptake into target cells. The data suggest that TcdA1-binding is most likely multivalent, and carbohydrates probably work cooperatively to facilitate binding and intoxication.

Keywords: bacterial toxin; glycan; receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins*
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Humans
  • Photorhabdus*
  • Polysaccharides


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Polysaccharides