HvnA and HvnB are proteins secreted by Vibrio fischeri ES114, an extracellular light organ symbiont of the squid Euprymna scolopes, that catalyze the transfer of ADP-ribose from NAD+ to polyarginine. Based on this activity, HvnA and HvnB were presumptively designated mono-ADP-ribosyltransferases (ARTases), and it was hypothesized that they mediate bacterium-host signaling. We have cloned hvnA and hvnB from strain ES114. hvnA appears to be expressed as part of a four-gene operon, whereas hvnB is monocistronic. The predicted HvnA and HvnB amino acid sequences are 46% identical to one another and share 44% and 34% identity, respectively, with an open reading frame present in the Pseudomonas aeruginosa genome. Four lines of evidence indicate that HvnA and HvnB mediate polyarginine ADP-ribosylation not by ARTase activity, but indirectly through an NAD+-glycohydrolase (NADase) activity that releases free, reactive, ADP-ribose: (i) like other NADases, and in contrast to the ARTase cholera toxin, HvnA and HvnB catalyzed ribosylation of not only polyarginine but also polylysine and polyhistidine, and ribosylation was inhibited by hydroxylamine; (ii) HvnA and HvnB cleaved 1,N6-etheno-NAD+ and NAD+; (iii) incubation of HvnA and HvnB with [32P]NAD+ resulted in the production of ADP-ribose; and (iv) purified HvnA displayed an NADase Vmax of 400 mol min−1 mol−1, which is within the range reported for other NADases and 102- to 104-fold higher than the minor NADase activity reported in bacterial ARTase toxins. Construction and analysis of an hvnA hvnB mutant revealed no other NADase activity in culture supernatants of V. fischeri, and this mutant initiated the light organ symbiosis and triggered regression of the light organ ciliated epithelium in a manner similar to that for the wild type
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