14-3-3 proteins play a regulatory role and participate in both signal transduction and checkpoint control pathways. 14-3-3 proteins bind phosphoserine ligands, such as Raf-1 kinase and Bad, by recognizing the phosphorylated consensus motif, Arg-Ser-Xaa-pSer-Xaa-Pro (where ‘Xaa’ represents ‘any residue’, and ‘pSer’ is ‘phosphoserine’) . However, 14-3-3 proteins must bind unphosphorylated ligands, such as glycoprotein Ibα and Pseudomonas aeruginosa exoenzyme S (ExoS), since it has been suggested that specific residues of 14-3-3 proteins are required for activation of ExoS. Furthermore, an unphosphorylated peptide derived from a phage display library inhibited the binding of both ExoS and Raf-1 to 14-3-3, and bound within the same conserved amphipathic groove on the surface of 14-3-3 as the Raf-derived phosphopeptide (pS-Raf-259). In the present study we identify the interaction site on ExoS for 14-3-3, and show that ExoS and 14-3-3 do indeed interact in vivo. In addition, we show that this interaction is critical for the ADP-ribosylation of Ras by ExoS, both in vitro and in vivo. Loss of the 14-3-3 binding site on ExoS results in an ExoS molecule that is unable to efficiently inactivate Ras, and displays reduced killing activity.

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