Williopsis saturnus var. mrakii MUCL 41968 secretes a killer toxin (WmKT), which is active against a wide range of pathogens. From the W. saturnus var. mrakii MUCL 41968 culture supernatant a protein of 85 kDa with killer activity was purified to homogeneity. The purified protein was demonstrated to be a killer toxin since it displays the toxin activity and cross-reacts with mAbKT4, a monoclonal antibody that blocks WmKT activity. Its partial amino acid sequencing revealed that WmKT might be related to yeast SUN proteins, but not to other killer toxins described. Immunofluorescence studies using polyclonal antibodies raised against purified WmKT revealed that it acts by binding to the cell surface of sensitive strains. We showed that WmKT is inactive against mutant strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae deficient in the synthesis of beta-glucans, indicating that these polysaccharides constitute the target of the toxin. WmKT was demonstrated to induce rapid lethal cell permeation, since strong propidium iodide labelling was shown for sensitive strains treated with the killer toxin. These findings indicate that WmKT is a novel killer toxin whose molecular characterization may lead to the development of new wide-spectrum antimicrobial compounds.
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