We have reported that diphtheria toxin (DTX) mediates target cell lysis and intranucleosomal DNA fragmentation (apoptosis) and also synergizes with TNF-alpha. In this paper, we examined which step in the pathway of DTX-mediated inhibition of protein synthesis was important for induction of cytolytic activity and for synergy. Using a DTX-sensitive tumor cell line, we first examined the activity of the mutant CRM 197, which does not catalyze the ADP ribosylation of elongation factor-2 (EF-2). CRM 197 was not cytolytic for target cells and did not mediate intranucleosomal DNA fragmentation of viable cells. The failure of CRM 197 to mediate target cell lysis suggested that the catalytic activity of DTX is prerequisite for target cell lysis. This was corroborated by demonstrating that MeSAdo, which blocks the biosynthesis of diphthamide, inhibited DTX-mediated protein synthesis inhibition and also blocked target cell lysis. Furthermore, the addition of nicotinamide, which competes with NAD+ on the DTX action site of EF-2, also blocked DTX-mediated lysis. These findings suggest that ADP-ribosylation of EF-2 may be a necessary step in the pathway leading to target cell lysis. In contrast to the sensitive line, the SKOV-3 tumor cell line is sensitive to protein synthesis inhibition by DTX but is not susceptible to cytolysis and apoptosis by DTX. Thus, protein synthesis inhibition by DTX is not sufficient to mediate target cell lysis. The synergy in cytotoxicity obtained with the combination of DTX and TNF-alpha was examined in order to determine the pathway mediated by DTX in synergy. Like the direct lysis by DTX, synergy was significantly reduced by MeSAdo and by nicotinamide. Furthermore, synergy was not observed with combination of CRM 197 and TNF-alpha. These results demonstrate that, in synergy, DTX may utilize the same pathway required for its cytolytic activity. Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin shared most the properties shown for DTX. Altogether, these findings demonstrate that DTX-mediated apoptosis is initiated at a step beyond the ADP ribosylation of EF-2.
- Copyright © 1992 by American Association of Immunologists