Pertussis toxin binds target cells through the carbohydrate recognition properties of two subunits, S2 and S3, which share amino acid sequence similarity with the lectin domains of the eukaryotic selectin family. Selectins appear on inflamed endothelial cells and promote rolling of leukocytes by reversibly binding carbohydrates. S2, S3, and synthetic peptides representing their carbohydrate recognition domains competitively inhibited adherence of neutrophils to selectin-coated surfaces and to endothelial cells in vitro. These proteins and peptides also rapidly upregulated the function of the leukocyte integrin CD11b/CD18. These findings implicate mimicry of eukaryotic selectins by prokaryotic adhesive ligands and link the mechanisms underlying leukocyte trafficking to microbial pathogenesis.

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