Membrane-active toxins from snake venom have been used previously to study protein-lipid interactions and to probe the physical and biochemical states of biomembranes. To extend these studies, we have isolated from Naja naja kaowthia (cobra) venom a cytotoxin free of detectable phospholipase A2 (PLA2). The amino acid composition, pI (10.2), and net charge of the cytotoxin compares well with membrane-active toxins isolated from venoms of other cobras. The cytotoxin, shown by a spin label method, associates with PLA2 in buffers at pH values between 7.0 and 5.0, but not at pH 4.0. It is suggested that cytotoxin and PLA2 (pI close to 4.8) associate electrostatically in the native venom. The effect of the cytotoxin on model phospholipid membranes was studied by EPR of spin probes in oriented lipid multilayers and 1H-NMR of sonicated liposomes. The cytotoxin did not significantly affect the packing of lipids in pure phosphatidylcholine (PC) membranes and in PC membranes containing 10 mol% phosphatidic acid (PA) or cardiolipin (CL). However, the cytotoxin induced an increase in membrane permeability and formation of nonbilayer structures in PC membranes containing 40 mol% of PA or CL. The purified cytotoxin was cytocidal to Jurkat cells, but had little effect on normal human lymphocytes. However, both Jurkat cells and normal lymphocytes were killed equivalently when treated with 10−9 m PLA2 and 10−5 m cytotoxin in combination. From its effect on model membranes and Jurkat cells, it is suggested that purified cytotoxin preferentially targets and disrupts membranes that are rich in acidic phospholipids on the extracellular side of the plasma membrane.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 15, 1997
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