Kaplan, A.R., Maciejewski, M.W., Olson, R. et al. Biomol NMR Assign (2014) 8: 419. doi:10.1007/s12104-013-9530-2
Pathogenic bacteria secrete pore-forming toxins (PFTs) to selectively defend against immune cells and to break through cellular barriers in the host. Understanding how PFTs attack cell membranes is not only essential for therapeutic intervention but for designing agents to deliver drugs to specific human cell subtypes, for example in anti-cancer or anti-viral therapies. Many toxins contain accessory domains that help recognize specific molecular epitopes on the membranes of target cells, including proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. Here we report NMR assignments for the 94-residue 10 kDa C-terminal accessory domain of Bacillus cereus hemolysin II, HlyIIC, that has no known structural or functional homologues. The HlyIIC domain exists in a dynamic equilibrium due to cis/trans isomerization of its Gly86–Pro87 peptide bond. The cis and trans forms are about equally populated and are in slow exchange on the NMR timescale, giving rise to separate signals for approximately half of the residues in the domain. Assignments for the cis and trans forms were achieved with the aid of a P87M mutant that stabilizes the trans form, and separate sequential walks for the two forms in 3D NMR spectra of the wild-type HlyIIC. Based on backbone chemical shifts, the domain has a α1–α2–β1–β2–β3–β4–α3–β5 order of secondary structure elements. The last strand in the trans form and in the P87M mutant is shortened near Pro87 compared to the cis form. Both cis/trans isomerization and the P87M mutation cause large chemical shift changes throughout HlyIIC, suggesting that the proline is important in stabilizing the structure of the domain. The NMR assignments pave the way for solving the structures of the multiple conformational forms of HlyIIC and establishing their mechanism of interconversion.