The interaction of cholera toxin with planar bilayer lipid membranes (BLM) at low pH results in the formation of ionic channels, the conductance of which can be directly measured in voltage-clamp experiments. It is found that the B-subunit of cholera toxin (CT-B) also is able to induce ionic channels in BLM whereas the A-subunit is not able to do it. The increase of pH inhibited the channel-forming activity of CT-B. The investigation of pH-dependences of both the conductance and the cation-anion selectivity of the CT-B channel allowed us to suggest that the water pore of this channel is confined to the B-subunit of cholera toxin. The effective diameter of the CT-B channels water pores was directly measured in BLM and is equal to 2.1 ± 0.2 nm. The channels formed by whole toxin and its B-subunit exhibit voltage-dependent activity. We believe these channels are relevant to the mode of action of cholera toxin and especially to the endosomal pathway of the A-subunit into cells. © 1991.
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