Clostridium difficile causes antibiotic-associated diarrhea and pseudomembranous colitis by production of the Rho GTPase-glucosylating toxins A and B. Recently emerging hypervirulent Clostridium difficile strains additionally produce the binary ADP-ribosyltransferase toxin CDT ( Clostridium difficile transferase), which ADP-ribosylates actin and inhibits actin polymerization. Thus far, the role of CDT as a virulence factor is not understood. Here we report by using time-lapse- and immunofluorescence microscopy that CDT and other binary actin-ADP-ribosylating toxins, including Clostridium botulinum C2 toxin and Clostridium perfringens iota toxin, induce redistribution of microtubules and formation of long (up to >150 µm) microtubule-based protrusions at the surface of intestinal epithelial cells. The toxins increase the length of decoration of microtubule plus-ends by EB1/3, CLIP-170 and CLIP-115 proteins and cause redistribution of the capture proteins CLASP2 and ACF7 from microtubules at the cell cortex into the cell interior. The CDT-induced microtubule protrusions form a dense meshwork at the cell surface, which wrap and embed bacterial cells, thereby largely increasing the adherence of Clostridia. The study describes a novel type of microtubule structure caused by less efficient microtubule capture and offers a new perspective for the pathogenetic role of CDT and other binary actin-ADP-ribosylating toxins in host–pathogen interactions.
Clostridium difficile is responsible for ∼20 percent of antibiotic-related cases of diarrhea and nearly all cases of pseudomembranous colitis. The pathogens produce two protein toxins (toxins A and B), which inactivate Rho-GTPases of host cells by glucosylation. Recently emerging hypervirulent strains of C. difficile release higher amounts of toxins A and B, are resistant towards fluoroquinolones and produce an additional protein toxin called C. difficile transferase (CDT). CDT is a binary toxin, which modifies G-actin by ADP-ribosylation, thereby inhibiting actin polymerization. So far the pathogenetic role of CDT is not clear. Here we studied the effects of CDT on human colon carcinoma cells and show that the toxin causes rearrangement of microtubules and formation of long cellular protrusions. The microtubule-based protrusions form a dense meshwork at the cell surface, which wrap and embed Clostridia, thereby increasing adherence of the pathogens. We observed similar effects with other members of the family of binary actin-ADP-ribosylating toxins like C. botulinum C2 toxin and C. perfringens iota toxin. Our findings show a novel type of microtubule structures induced by actin-ADP-ribosylating toxins and propose an important role of these toxins in host–pathogen interactions by their effects on adherence and colonization of Clostridia.