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The enzymatic activity of the three most studied bacterial toxins that increase the cytosolic cAMP level: pertussis toxin (PT), cholera toxin (CT), and anthrax edema toxin (ET), was imaged by fluorescence videomicroscopy. Three different cell lines were transfected with a fluorescence resonance energy transfer biosensor based on the PKA regulatory and catalytic subunits fused to CFP and YFP, respectively. Real-time imaging of cells expressing this cAMP biosensor provided time and space resolved pictures of the toxins action. The time course of the PT-induced cAMP increase suggests that its active subunit enters the cytosol more rapidly than that deduced by biochemical experiments. ET generated cAMP concentration gradients decreasing from the nucleus to the cell periphery. On the contrary, CT, which acts on the plasma membrane adenylate cyclase, did not. The potential of imaging methods in studying the mode of entry and the intracellular action of bacterial toxins is discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochem Biophys Res Commun

Publication Date





429 - 433


Adenylyl Cyclases, Antigens, Bacterial, Bacterial Toxins, Cell Line, Cell Membrane, Cholera Toxin, Cyclic AMP, Cytosol, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Fluorescent Dyes, Humans, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Pertussis Toxin