Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin Y is a promiscuous cyclase that increases endothelial tau phosphorylation and permeability

Cristhiaan D. Ochoa, Mikhail Alexeyev, Viktoriya Pastukh, Ron Balczon, Troy Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Exotoxin Y (ExoY) is a type III secretion system effector found in ∼90% of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates. Although it is known that ExoY causes inter-endothelial gaps and vascular leak, the mechanisms by which this occurs are poorly understood. Using both a bacteria-delivered and a codon-optimized conditionally expressed ExoY, we report that this toxin is a dual soluble adenylyl and guanylyl cyclase that results in intracellular cAMP and cGMP accumulation. The enzymatic activity of ExoY caused phosphorylation of endothelial Tau serine 214, accumulation of insoluble Tau, inter-endothelial cell gap formation, and increased macromolecular permeability. To discern whether the cAMP or cGMP signal was responsible for Tau phosphorylation and barrier disruption, pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells were engineered for the conditional expression of either wild-type guanylyl cyclase, which synthesizes cGMP, or a mutated guanylyl cyclase, which synthesizes cAMP. Sodium nitroprusside stimulation of the cGMP-generating cyclase resulted in transient Tau serine 214 phosphorylation and gap formation, whereas stimulation of the cAMP-generating cyclase induced a robust increase in Tau serine 214 phosphorylation, gap formation, and macromolecular permeability. These results indicate that the cAMP signal is the dominant stimulus for Tau phosphorylation. Hence, ExoY is a promiscuous cyclase and edema factor that uses cAMP and, to some extent, cGMP to induce the hyperphosphorylation and insolubility of endothelial Tau. Because hyperphosphorylated and insoluble Tau are hallmarks in neurodegenerative tauopathies such as Alzheimer disease, acute Pseudomonas infections cause a pathophysiological sequela in endothelium previously recognized only in chronic neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25407-25418
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 20 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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