Certain microbial toxins are ADP-ribosyltransferases, acting on specific substrate proteins. Although these toxins have been of great utility in studies of cellular regulatory processes, a simple procedure to directly study toxin-catalyzed ADP-ribosylation in intact cells has not been described. Our approach was to use [2-3H]adenine to metabolically label the cellular NAD+ pool. Labeled proteins were then denatured with SDS, resolved by PAGE, and detected by flurography. In this manner, we show that pertussis toxin, after a dose-dependent lag period, [3H]-labeled a 40-kD protein intact cells. Furthermore, incubation of the gel with trichloroacetic acid at 95 degrees C before fluorography caused the release of label from bands other than the pertussis toxin substrate, thus, allowing its selective visualization. The modification of the 40-kD protein was ascribed to ADP-ribosylation of a cysteine residue on the basis of inhibition of labeling by nicotinamide and the release of [3H]ADP-ribose from the labeled protein by mercuric acetate. Cholera toxin catalyzed the [3H]-labeling of a 46-kD protein in the [2-3H]adenine-labeled cells. Pretreatment of the cells with pertussis toxin before the labeling of NAD+ with [2-3H]adenine blocked [2-3H]ADP-ribosylation catalyzed by pertussis toxin, but not that by cholera toxin. Thus, labeling with [2-3H]adenine permits the study of toxin-catalyzed ADP-ribosylation in intact cells. Pasteurella multocida toxin has recently been described as a novel and potent mitogen for Swiss 3T3 cell and acts to stimulate the phospholipase C-mediated hydrolysis of polyphosphoinositides. The basis of the action of the toxin is not known. Using the methodology described here, P. multocida toxin was not found to act by ADP-ribosylation.

This content is only available as a PDF.