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Journal Article

Incomplete pneumolysin oligomers form membrane pores


Sonnen,  Andreas F.-P.
Baumeister, Wolfgang / Molecular Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Max Planck Society;


Plitzko,  Jürgen M.
Baumeister, Wolfgang / Molecular Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Sonnen, A.-F.-P., Plitzko, J. M., & Gilbert, R. J. C. (2014). Incomplete pneumolysin oligomers form membrane pores. OPEN BIOLOGY, 4(4): [4:140044]. doi:10.1098/rsob.140044.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0019-CF32-B
Pneumolysin is a member of the cholesterol-dependent cytolysin (CDC) family of pore-forming proteins that are produced as water-soluble monomers or dimers, bind to target membranes and oligomerize into large ring-shaped assemblies comprising approximately 40 subunits and approximately 30 nm across. This pre-pore assembly then refolds to punch a large hole in the lipid bilayer. However, in addition to forming large pores, pneumolysin and other CDCs formsmaller lesions characterized by low electrical conductance. Owing to the observation of arc-like (rather than full-ring) oligomers by electron microscopy, it has been hypothesized that smaller oligomers explain smaller functional pores. To investigate whether this is the case, we performed cryo-electron tomography of pneumolysin oligomers on model lipid membranes. We then used sub-tomogram classification and averaging to determine representative membrane-bound low-resolution structures and identified pre-pores versus pores by the presence of membrane within the oligomeric curve. We found pre-pore and pore forms of both complete (ring) and incomplete (arc) oligomers and conclude that arc-shaped oligomeric assemblies of pneumolysin can form pores. As the CDCs are evolutionarily related to the membrane attack complex/perforin family of proteins, which also form variably sized pores, our findings are of relevance to that class of proteins as well.