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1.  Extraction and Inhibition of Enzymatic Activity of Botulinum Neurotoxins/A1, /A2, and /A3 by a Panel of Monoclonal Anti-BoNT/A Antibodies 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5355.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are extremely potent toxins that are capable of causing death or respiratory failure leading to long-term intensive care. Treatment includes serotype-specific antitoxins, which must be administered early in the course of the intoxication. Rapidly determining human exposure to BoNT is an important public health goal. In previous work, our laboratory focused on developing Endopep-MS, a mass spectrometry-based endopeptidase method for detecting and differentiating BoNT/A–G serotypes in buffer and BoNT/A, /B, /E, and /F in clinical samples. We have previously reported the effectiveness of antibody-capture to purify and concentrate BoNTs from complex matrices, such as clinical samples. Because some antibodies inhibit or neutralize the activity of BoNT, the choice of antibody with which to extract the toxin is critical. In this work, we evaluated a panel of 16 anti-BoNT/A monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for their ability to inhibit the in vitro activity of BoNT/A1, /A2, and /A3 complex as well as the recombinant LC of A1. We also evaluated the same antibody panel for the ability to extract BoNT/A1, /A2, and /A3. Among the mAbs, there were significant differences in extraction efficiency, ability to extract BoNT/A subtypes, and inhibitory effect on BoNT catalytic activity. The mAbs binding the C-terminal portion of the BoNT/A heavy chain had optimal properties for use in the Endopep-MS assay.
PMCID: PMC2670495  PMID: 19399171
2.  Extraction of BoNT/A, /B, /E, and /F with a Single, High Affinity Monoclonal Antibody for Detection of Botulinum Neurotoxin by Endopep-MS 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12237.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are extremely potent toxins that are capable of causing respiratory failure leading to long-term intensive care or death. The best treatment for botulism includes serotype-specific antitoxins, which are most effective when administered early in the course of the intoxication. Early confirmation of human exposure to any serotype of BoNT is an important public health goal. In previous work, we focused on developing Endopep-MS, a mass spectrometry-based endopeptidase method for detecting and differentiating the seven serotypes (BoNT/A-G) in buffer and BoNT/A, /B, /E, and /F (the four serotypes that commonly affect humans) in clinical samples. We have previously reported the success of antibody-capture to purify and concentrate BoNTs from complex matrices, such as clinical samples. However, to check for any one of the four serotypes of BoNT/A, /B, /E, or /F, each sample is split into 4 aliquots, and tested for the specific serotypes separately. The discovery of a unique monoclonal antibody that recognizes all four serotypes of BoNT/A, /B, /E and /F allows us to perform simultaneous detection of all of them. When applied in conjunction with the Endopep-MS assay, the detection limit for each serotype of BoNT with this multi-specific monoclonal antibody is similar to that obtained when using other serotype-specific antibodies.
PMCID: PMC2923190  PMID: 20808925
3.  The ultimate radiochemical nightmare: upon radio-iodination of Botulinum neurotoxin A, the introduced iodine atom itself seems to be fatal for the bioactivity of this macromolecule 
EJNMMI Research  2015;5:5.
Botulinum neurotoxin A (BoNT-A) is a highly neurotoxic drug and frequently used in patients. Knowledge on the optimal way of administration of BoNT-A and its subsequent distribution is still rather limited. An accurate method for monitoring these processes might be the use of radiolabelled BoNT-A. In this paper, we report our feasibility study on labelling BoNT-A with high-dose iodine-125 (125I) via IODOGEN-coated BoNT-A method.
Using cetuximab as model substrate for BoNT-A, a miniaturization of the IODOGEN-coated mAb method was developed with special attention to the minimum required amount of the oxidant IODOGEN, while the amount of substrate, reaction volume and reaction time were downsized. Labelling efficiency and radiochemical purity were determined by TLC, integrity by SDS-PAGE and HPLC and immunoreactivity by cell-binding assay. BoNT-A (50 μg) was labelled with 125I by coating with 2.5 μg IODOGEN, in a total reaction volume of 250 μL and a reaction time of 90 s. 125I-BoNT-A was purified by size exclusion chromatography (PD10 column) using ascorbic acid solution (5 mg/ml, pH = 5) as eluent. Quality analysis of 125I-BoNT-A was performed by an in vitro bladder strip model, an electrochemiluminescence assay and an Endopep assay.
Cetuximab (50 μg) labelling with 125I (15 to 150 MBq) resulted in a labelling efficiency of 70% to 80%, a radiochemical purity of >99%, an immunoreactivity of >95% and a retained integrity on SDS; HPLC analysis revealed partly affected integrity when 110 to 150 MBq 125I was used, i.e. when the averaged I/mAb molar ratio exceeded 3. Addition of HEPES (20 mM) and lactose (1.25%) (lyophilized BoNT-A contains HEPES and lactose) decreased the labelling efficiency to 44% to 54%. BoNT-A (50 μg) labelling with 125I (97.2 to 98.3 MBq) resulted in labelling efficiency of 51% to 52% with a radiochemical purity >98.5%, a specific activity of 150.5 to 152.9 MBq/nmol and an I/BoNT-A molar ratio of 1.86 to 1.90. The in vitro bladder strip model showed no bioactivity of 125I-BoNT-A when compared to unlabelled BoNT-A. The electrochemiluminescence and Endopep assay demonstrated around 10% and 15% bioactivity of 125I-BoNT-A compared to unlabelled BoNT-A, respectively. The remaining bioactivity correlates within the Poisson distribution with the amount of BoNT-A molecules that does not bear an iodine atom.
BoNT-A was successfully radio-iodinated with an activity high enough to enable in vivo measurement of nanograms of BoNT-A, which could be used in studying optimization of administration techniques of BoNT-A. The bioactivity of a BoNT-A molecule is, however, lost upon the introduction of an iodine atom into the tyrosine moiety of this sensitive molecule.
PMCID: PMC4385017  PMID: 25853011
Botulinum neurotoxin A; Iodine-125; Radio-iodination; Monoclonal antibody; PET research
4.  Recommended Mass Spectrometry-Based Strategies to Identify Botulinum Neurotoxin-Containing Samples 
Toxins  2015;7(5):1765-1778.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) cause the disease called botulism, which can be lethal. BoNTs are proteins secreted by some species of clostridia and are known to cause paralysis by interfering with nerve impulse transmission. Although the human lethal dose of BoNT is not accurately known, it is estimated to be between 0.1 μg to 70 μg, so it is important to enable detection of small amounts of these toxins. Our laboratory previously reported on the development of Endopep-MS, a mass-spectrometric‑based endopeptidase method to detect, differentiate, and quantify BoNT immunoaffinity purified from complex matrices. In this work, we describe the application of Endopep-MS for the analysis of thirteen blinded samples supplied as part of the EQuATox proficiency test. This method successfully identified the presence or absence of BoNT in all thirteen samples and was able to successfully differentiate the serotype of BoNT present in the samples, which included matrices such as buffer, milk, meat extract, and serum. Furthermore, the method yielded quantitative results which had z-scores in the range of −3 to +3 for quantification of BoNT/A containing samples. These results indicate that Endopep-MS is an excellent technique for detection, differentiation, and quantification of BoNT in complex matrices.
PMCID: PMC4448173  PMID: 25996606
botulinum neurotoxin; botulism; mass spectrometry
5.  Antibody Protection against Botulinum Neurotoxin Intoxication in Mice▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(10):4305-4313.
Adulteration of food or feed with any of the seven serotypes of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is a potential bioterrorism concern. Currently, there is strong interest in the development of detection reagents, vaccines, therapeutics, and other countermeasures. A sensitive immunoassay for detecting BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A), based on monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) F1-2 and F1-40, has been developed and used in complex matrices. The epitope for F1-2 has been mapped to the heavy chain of BoNT/A, and the epitope of F1-40 has been mapped to the light chain. The ability of these MAbs to provide therapeutic protection against BoNT/A intoxication in mouse intravenous and oral intoxication models was tested. High dosages of individual MAbs protected mice well both pre- and postexposure to BoNT/A holotoxin. A combination therapy consisting of antibodies against both the light and heavy chains of the toxin, however, significantly increased protection, even at a lower MAb dosage. An in vitro peptide assay for measuring toxin activity showed that pretreatment of toxin with these MAbs did not block catalytic activity but instead blocked toxin entry into primary and cultured neuronal cells. The timing of antibody rescue in the mouse intoxication models revealed windows of opportunity for antibody therapeutic treatment that correlated well with the biologic half-life of the toxin in the serum. Knowledge of BoNT intoxication and antibody clearance in these mouse models and understanding of the pharmacokinetics of BoNT are invaluable for future development of antibodies and therapeutics against intoxication by BoNT.
PMCID: PMC2747958  PMID: 19651864
6.  A historical and proteomic analysis of botulinum neurotoxin type/G 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:232.
Clostridium botulinum is the taxonomic designation for at least six diverse species that produce botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs). There are seven known serotypes of BoNTs (/A through/G), all of which are potent toxins classified as category A bioterrorism agents. BoNT/G is the least studied of the seven serotypes. In an effort to further characterize the holotoxin and neurotoxin-associated proteins (NAPs), we conducted an in silico and proteomic analysis of commercial BoNT/G complex. We describe the relative quantification of the proteins present in the/G complex and confirm our ability to detect the toxin activity in vitro. In addition, we review previous literature to provide a complete description of the BoNT/G complex.
An in-depth comparison of protein sequences indicated that BoNT/G shares the most sequence similarity with the/B serotype. A temperature-modified Endopep-MS activity assay was successful in the detection of BoNT/G activity. Gel electrophoresis and in gel digestions, followed by MS/MS analysis of/G complex, revealed the presence of four proteins in the complexes: neurotoxin (BoNT) and three NAPs--nontoxic-nonhemagglutinin (NTNH) and two hemagglutinins (HA70 and HA17). Rapid high-temperature in-solution tryptic digestions, coupled with MS/MS analysis, generated higher than previously reported sequence coverages for all proteins associated with the complex: BoNT 66%, NTNH 57%, HA70 91%, and HA17 99%. Label-free relative quantification determined that the complex contains 30% BoNT, 38% NTNH, 28% HA70, and 4% HA17 by weight comparison and 17% BoNT, 23% NTNH, 42% HA70, and 17% HA17 by molecular comparison.
The in silico protein sequence comparisons established that the/G complex is phenetically related to the other six serotypes of C. botulinum. Proteomic analyses and Endopep-MS confirmed the presence of BoNT and NAPs, along with the activity of the commercial/G complex. The use of data-independent MSE data analysis, coupled to label-free quantification software, suggested that the weight ratio BoNT:NAPs is 1:3, whereas the molar ratio of BoNT:NTNH:HA70:HA17 is 1:1:2:1, within the BoNT/G progenitor toxin.
PMCID: PMC3215672  PMID: 22008244
7.  Neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies binding multiple serotypes of botulinum neurotoxin 
Botulism, a disease of humans characterized by prolonged paralysis, is caused by botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), the most poisonous substances known. There are seven serotypes of BoNT (A–G) which differ from each other by 34–64% at the amino acid level. Each serotype is uniquely recognized by polyclonal antibodies, which originally were used to classify serotypes. To determine if there existed monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) capable of binding two or more serotypes, we evaluated the ability of 35 yeast-displayed single-chain variable fragment antibodies generated from vaccinated humans or mice for their ability to bind multiple BoNT serotypes. Two such clonally related human mAbs (1B18 and 4E17) were identified that bound BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A) and B or BoNT/A, B, E and F, respectively, with high affinity. Using molecular evolution techniques, it proved possible to both increase affinity and maintain cross-serotype reactivity for the 4E17 mAb. Both 1B18 and 4E17 bound to a relatively conserved epitope at the tip of the BoNT translocation domain. Immunoglobulin G constructed from affinity matured variants of 1B18 and 4E17 were evaluated for their ability to neutralize BoNT/B and E, respectively, in vivo. Both antibodies potently neutralized BoNT in vivo demonstrating that this epitope is functionally important in the intoxication pathway. Such cross-serotype binding and neutralizing mAbs should simplify the development of antibody-based BoNT diagnostics and therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3038462  PMID: 21149386
botulism; botulinum neurotoxin; molecular evolution; single-chain Fv; yeast display
8.  A Highly Specific Monoclonal Antibody for Botulinum Neurotoxin Type A-Cleaved SNAP25 
Toxins  2015;7(7):2354-2370.
Botulinum neurotoxin type-A (BoNT/A), as onabotulinumtoxinA, is approved globally for 11 major therapeutic and cosmetic indications. While the mechanism of action for BoNT/A at the presynaptic nerve terminal has been established, questions remain regarding intracellular trafficking patterns and overall fate of the toxin. Resolving these questions partly depends on the ability to detect BoNT/A’s location, distribution, and movement within a cell. Due to BoNT/A’s high potency and extremely low concentrations within neurons, an alternative approach has been employed. This involves utilizing specific antibodies against the BoNT/A-cleaved SNAP25 substrate (SNAP25197) to track the enzymatic activity of toxin within cells. Using our highly specific mouse monoclonal antibody (mAb) against SNAP25197, we generated human and murine recombinant versions (rMAb) using specific backbone immunoglobulins. In this study, we validated the specificity of our anti-SNAP25197 rMAbs in several different assays and performed side-by-side comparisons to commercially-available and in-house antibodies against SNAP25. Our rMAbs were highly specific for SNAP25197 in all assays and on several different BoNT/A-treated tissues, showing no cross-reactivity with full-length SNAP25. This was not the case with other reportedly SNAP25197-selective antibodies, which were selective in some, but not all assays. The rMAbs described herein represent effective new tools for detecting BoNT/A activity within cells.
PMCID: PMC4516917  PMID: 26114335
botulinum neurotoxin; SNAP25; neuromuscular junction; motor nerve; autonomic nerve; recombinant antibody
9.  Holotoxin Activity of Botulinum Neurotoxin Subtype A4 Originating from a Nontoxigenic Clostridium botulinum Expression System 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2014;80(23):7415-7422.
Clostridium botulinum subtype A4 neurotoxin (BoNT/A4) is naturally expressed in the dual-toxin-producing C. botulinum strain 657Ba at 100× lower titers than BoNT/B. In this study, we describe purification of recombinant BoNT/A4 (rBoNT/A4) expressed in a nonsporulating and nontoxigenic C. botulinum expression host strain. The rBoNT/A4 copurified with nontoxic toxin complex components provided in trans by the expression host and was proteolytically cleaved to the active dichain form. Activity of the recombinant BoNT/A4 in mice and in human neuronal cells was about 1,000-fold lower than that of BoNT/A1, and the recombinant BoNT/A4 was effectively neutralized by botulism heptavalent antitoxin. A previous report using recombinant truncated BoNT/A4 light chain (LC) expressed in Escherichia coli has indicated reduced stability and activity of BoNT/A4 LC compared to BoNT/A1 LC, which was surmounted by introduction of a single-amino-acid substitution, I264R. In order to determine whether this mutation would also affect the holotoxin activity of BoNT/A4, a recombinant full-length BoNT/A4 carrying this mutation as well as a second mutation predicted to increase solubility (L260F) was produced in the clostridial expression system. Comparative analyses of the in vitro, cellular, and in vivo activities of rBoNT/A4 and rBoNT/A4-L260F I264R showed 1,000-fold-lower activity than BoNT/A1 in both the mutated and nonmutated BoNT/A4. This indicates that these mutations do not alter the activity of BoNT/A4 holotoxin. In summary, a recombinant BoNT from a dual-toxin-producing strain was expressed and purified in an endogenous clostridial expression system, allowing analysis of this toxin.
PMCID: PMC4249187  PMID: 25239905
10.  Detection of Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype B at Sub Mouse LD50 Levels by a Sandwich Immunoassay and Its Application to Toxin Detection in Milk 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11047.
Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT), the causative agent of botulism, a serious neuroparylatic disease, is produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum and consists of a family of seven serotypes (A-H). We previously reported production of high-affinity monoclonal antibodies to BoNT serotype A.
Methods and Findings
Recombinant peptide fragments of the light chain, the transmembrane and receptor-binding domains of the heavy chain of botulinum neurotoxin type B (BoNT/B) were expressed in Escherichia coli as GST-fusion proteins and purified. These proteins were used to immunize BALB/cJ mice for the generation of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Antibody-producing hybridomas were detected using either a direct binding ELISA binding to plate-immobilized BoNT/B, or with a capture-capture ELISA whereby the capacity of the antibody to capture BoNT/B from solution was tested. A total of five mAbs were selected, two of which bound the toxin light chain and three bound the receptor-binding domain of BoNT/B heavy chain. MAb MCS6-27 was identified via capture-capture ELISA and was the only mAb able to bind BoNT/B in solution under physiological conditions. MAbs F24-1, F26-16, F27-33 and F29-40 were identified via direct binding ELISA, and were able to capture BoNT/B in solution only in the presence of 0.5–0.9 mM sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS). MAb MCS6-27 and an anti-BoNT/B polyclonal antibody were incorporated into a sandwich ELISA that did not require SDS.
We report here the generation of monoclonal antibodies to serotype B and the subsequent development of a sensitive sandwich immunoassay. This immunoassay has a detection limit of 100 fg BoNT/B, fifty times more sensitive than the mouse bioassay detection limit of 5 pg BoNT/B. Additionally, this assay detected as little as 39 pg/mL of toxin in skim, 2% and whole milk.
PMCID: PMC2883556  PMID: 20548779
11.  Selection and Characterization of a Human Monoclonal Neutralizing Antibody for Clostridium Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype B 
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are causative agents for botulism and are identified as a category A bioterror agents by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Current antitoxins against BoNTs intoxication have some limitations including side effects or limited supply. As an alternative, neutralizing monoclonal antibodies will play an increasing role as BoNTs therapeutics. To date, no human anti-BoNT/B neutralizing monoclonal antibodies have yet to be reported. Herein, we describe an improved selection approach and characterization of a human monoclonal antibody, F2, which is capable of binding BoNT/B with high specificity and displays neutralizing activity in an in vitro cell-based assay. Through surface plasmon resonance studies, we have determined its association and dissociation rate constants. In sum, our data demonstrate that monoclonal antibody F2 is a promising BoNT/B therapeutic lead for further development.
PMCID: PMC2645068  PMID: 19112017
Phage display; Botulinum neurotoxin; monoclonal antibody; neutralizing antibody
12.  Efficient Serum Clearance of Botulinum Neurotoxin Achieved Using a Pool of Small Antitoxin Binding Agents▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;78(2):756-763.
Antitoxins for botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) and other toxins are needed that can be produced economically with improved safety and shelf-life properties compared to conventional therapeutics with large-animal antisera. Here we show that protection from BoNT lethality and rapid BoNT clearance through the liver can be elicited in mice by administration of a pool of epitope-tagged small protein binding agents together with a single anti-tag monoclonal antibody (MAb). The protein binding agents used in this study were single-chain Fv domains (scFvs) with high affinity for BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A). The addition of increasing numbers of differently tagged scFvs synergistically increased the level of protection against BoNT/A. It was not necessary that any of the BoNT/A binding agents possess toxin-neutralizing activity. Mice were protected from a dose equivalent to 1,000 to 10,000 50% lethal doses (LD50) of BoNT/A when given three or four different anti-BoNT scFvs, each fused to an E-tag peptide, and an anti-E-tag IgG1 MAb. Toxin protection was enhanced when an scFv contained two copies of the E tag. Pharmacokinetic studies demonstrated that BoNT/A was rapidly cleared from the sera of mice given a pool of anti-BoNT/A scFvs and an anti-tag MAb but not from the sera of mice given scFvs alone or anti-tag MAb alone. The scFv pool and anti-tag MAb protected mice from lethality when administered up to 2 h following exposure of mice to a dose equivalent to 10 LD50 of BoNT/A. These results suggest that it will be possible to rapidly and economically develop and produce therapeutic antitoxins consisting of pools of tagged binding agents that are administered with a single, stockpiled anti-tag MAb.
PMCID: PMC2812214  PMID: 19917718
13.  A Single Domain Llama Antibody Potently Inhibits the Enzymatic Activity of Botulinum Neurotoxin by Binding to the Non-Catalytic Alpha-Exosite Binding Region 
Journal of molecular biology  2010;397(4):1106-1118.
Ingestion or inhalation of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) results in botulism, a severe and frequently fatal disease. Current treatments rely on antitoxins, which while effective cannot reverse symptoms once BoNT has entered the neuron. For treatments that can reverse intoxication, interest has focused on developing inhibitors of the enzymatic BoNT light chain (BoNT Lc). Such inhibitors typically mimic substrate and bind in or around the substrate cleavage pocket. To explore the full range of binding sites for serotype A light chain (BoNT/A Lc) inhibitors, we created a library of non-immune llama single domain VHH antibodies displayed on the surface of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Library selection on BoNT/A Lc yielded 15 yeast displayed VHH with equilibrium dissociation constants (KD) from 230 to 0.03 nM measured by flow cytometry. Eight of 15 VHH inhibited the cleavage of substrate SNAP25 by BoNT/A Lc. The most potent VHH (Aa1) had a solution KD for BoNT/A Lc of 1.47 × 10-10 M, an IC50 of 4.7 × 10-10 M, and was resistant to heat denaturation and reducing conditions. To understand the mechanism by which Aa1 inhibited catalysis, the X-ray crystal structure of the BoNT/A Lc - Aa1 VHH complex was solved at 2.6 Å resolution. The structure reveals that the Aa1 VHH binds in the alpha-exosite of the BoNT/A Lc, far from the active site for catalysis. The study validates the utility of non-immune llama VHH libraries as a source of enzyme inhibitors and identifies the BoNT/A Lc alpha-exosite as a target for inhibitor development.
PMCID: PMC2903050  PMID: 20138889
botulinum neurotoxin type A; llama single VHH; single domain antibody; alpha-exosite; Naïve yeast-displayed library
14.  Unique Biological Activity of Botulinum D/C Mosaic Neurotoxin in Murine Species 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(8):2886-2893.
Clostridium botulinum types C and D cause animal botulism by the production of serotype-specific or mosaic botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT). The D/C mosaic BoNT (BoNT/DC), which is produced by the isolate from bovine botulism in Japan, exhibits the highest toxicity to mice among all BoNTs. In contrast, rats appeared to be very resistant to BoNT/DC in type C and D BoNTs and their mosaic BoNTs. We attempted to characterize the enzymatic and receptor-binding activities of BoNT/DC by comparison with those of type C and D BoNTs (BoNT/C and BoNT/D). BoNT/DC and D showed similar toxic effects on cerebellar granule cells (CGCs) derived from the mouse, but the former showed less toxicity to rat CGCs. In recombinant murine-derived vesicle-associated membrane protein (VAMP), the enzymatic activities of both BoNTs to rat isoform 1 VAMP (VAMP1) were lower than those to the other VAMP homologues. We then examined the physiological significance of gangliosides as the binding components for types C and D, and mosaic BoNTs. BoNT/DC and C were found to cleave an intracellular substrate of PC12 cells upon the exogenous addition of GM1a and GT1b gangliosides, respectively, suggesting that each BoNT recognizes a different ganglioside moiety. The effect of BoNT/DC on glutamate release from CGCs was prevented by cholera toxin B-subunit (CTB) but not by a site-directed mutant of CTB that did not bind to GM1a. Bovine adrenal chromaffin cells appeared to be more sensitive to BoNT/DC than to BoNT/C and D. These results suggest that a unique mechanism of receptor binding of BoNT/DC may differentially regulate its biological activities in animals.
PMCID: PMC3434576  PMID: 22665374
15.  Isolation and Functional Characterization of the Novel Clostridium botulinum Neurotoxin A8 Subtype 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0116381.
Botulism is a severe neurological disease caused by the complex family of botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT). Based on the different serotypes known today, a classification of serotype variants termed subtypes has been proposed according to sequence diversity and immunological properties. However, the relevance of BoNT subtypes is currently not well understood. Here we describe the isolation of a novel Clostridium botulinum strain from a food-borne botulism outbreak near Chemnitz, Germany. Comparison of its botulinum neurotoxin gene sequence with published sequences identified it to be a novel subtype within the BoNT/A serotype designated BoNT/A8. The neurotoxin gene is located within an ha-orfX+ cluster and showed highest homology to BoNT/A1, A2, A5, and A6. Unexpectedly, we found an arginine insertion located in the HC domain of the heavy chain, which is unique compared to all other BoNT/A subtypes known so far. Functional characterization revealed that the binding characteristics to its main neuronal protein receptor SV2C seemed unaffected, whereas binding to membrane-incorporated gangliosides was reduced in comparison to BoNT/A1. Moreover, we found significantly lower enzymatic activity of the natural, full-length neurotoxin and the recombinant light chain of BoNT/A8 compared to BoNT/A1 in different endopeptidase assays. Both reduced ganglioside binding and enzymatic activity may contribute to the considerably lower biological activity of BoNT/A8 as measured in a mouse phrenic nerve hemidiaphragm assay. Despite its reduced activity the novel BoNT/A8 subtype caused severe botulism in a 63-year-old male. To our knowledge, this is the first description and a comprehensive characterization of a novel BoNT/A subtype which combines genetic information on the neurotoxin gene cluster with an in-depth functional analysis using different technical approaches. Our results show that subtyping of BoNT is highly relevant and that understanding of the detailed toxin function might pave the way for the development of novel therapeutics and tailor-made antitoxins.
PMCID: PMC4320087  PMID: 25658638
16.  Effects of Enzymatically Inactive Recombinant Botulinum Neurotoxin Type A at the Mouse Neuromuscular Junctions 
Botulinum neurotoxin A (BoNT/A) is used clinically to treat several neurological and metabolic diseases. However, the mechanisms that underlie the clinical use of the toxin remain still to be elusive. BoNT/A inhibits acetylcholine (ACh) release at the motor nerve terminals (MNT) and causes neuroparalysis. The toxic effects of BoNT/A at the MNT occur in sub-pico molar range, and it is invaluable to determine the half-life and the persistence of catalytic activity of the toxin to develop therapeutics against BoNT/A intoxication. However, the use of extremely low concentrations of BoNT/A in cellular, or animal models due to high toxicity makes it difficult to determine new cellular mechanisms and binding or interacting partners of BoNT/A. In order to address this, a catalytically deactivated, non-toxic version of BoNT/A, designated as DrBoNT/A, was characterized. DrBoNT/A lacks endoprotease activity (SNAP-25 cleavage) at concentrations as high as 46,875 – fold, compared to wild-type BoNT/A. Unlike BoNT/A injection (3.2 pg), injection of the recombinant product (150 ng or 3.2 pg) into mouse hind limbs failed to cause neuroparalysis as exhibited by the lack of inhibition of toe spread reflex (ability of the mouse to spread its hindlimb toes), and inhibit ACh release at the MNT. The in vitro experiments also demonstrate that DrBoNT/A uptake (at concentration in 1000–fold excess over BoNT/A), internalization and localization at the MNT remained unaltered. In addition, modeling studies support that DrBoNT/A lacked the zinc binding ability, and the ability to directly participate in the hydrolysis of SNAP-25 substrate. Collectively, we demonstrate that DrBoNT/A is non-toxic to the MNT and can be used as a surrogate tool to understand the mechanism by which BoNT/A modulates signal transduction mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3985282  PMID: 23810945
non-toxic Botulinum neurotoxin A; neuromuscular junction; acetylcholine release; neurotransmission; nerve muscle preparation; deactivated; recombinant botulinum neurotoxin A
17.  Synergistic capture of Clostridium botulinum Type A neurotoxin by scFv antibodies to novel epitopes 
Biotechnology and bioengineering  2011;108(10):2456-2467.
A non-immune library of human single chain fragment variable (scFv) antibodies displayed on Saccharomyces cerevisiae was screened for binding to the Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin serotype A binding domain [BoNT/A (Hc)] with the goal of identifying scFv to novel epitopes. To do this, an antibody-mediated labeling strategy was used in which antigen-binding yeast clones were selected after labeling with previously characterized monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) specific to the Hc. Twenty unique scFv clones were isolated that bound Hc. Of these, three also bound to full-length BoNT/A toxin complex with affinities ranging from 5 nM to 48 nM. Epitope binning showed that the three unique clones recognized at least two epitopes distinct from one another as well as from the detection MAbs. After production in E. coli, scFv were coupled to magnetic particles and tested for their ability to capture BoNT/A holotoxin using an Endopep-MS assay. In this assay, toxin captured by scFv coated magnetic particles was detected by incubation of the complex with a peptide containing a BoNT/A-specific cleavage sequence. Mass spectrometry was used to detect the ratio of intact peptide to cleavage products as evidence for toxin capture. When tested individually, each of the scFv showed a weak positive Endopep-MS result. However, when the particles were coated with all three scFv simultaneously, they exhibited significantly higher Endopep-MS activity, consistent with synergistic binding. These results demonstrate novel approaches toward the isolation and characterization of scFv antibodies specific to unlabeled antigens. They also provide evidence that distinct scFv antibodies can work synergistically to increase the efficiency of antigen capture onto a solid support.
PMCID: PMC3203252  PMID: 21538339
Affinity reagents; molecular probes; scFv; antibodies; BoNT/A; yeast display
18.  Fine and domain-level epitope mapping of botulinum neurotoxin type A neutralizing antibodies by yeast surface display 
Journal of molecular biology  2006;365(1):196-210.
Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT), the most poisonous substance known, causes naturally occurring human disease (botulism) and is one of the top six biothreat agents. Botulism is treated with polyclonal antibodies produced in horses which are associated with a high incidence of systemic reactions. Human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are under development as a safer therapy. Identifying neutralizing epitopes on BoNTs is an important step in generating neutralizing mAbs, and also has implications for vaccine development. Here we show that the three domains of BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A) can be displayed on the surface of yeast and used to epitope map six mAbs to the toxin domains they bind. The use of yeast obviates the need to express and purify each domain, and it should prove possible to display domains of other BoNT subtypes and serotypes for epitope mapping. Using a library of yeast displayed BoNT/A binding domain (HC) mutants and selecting for loss of binding, the fine epitopes of three neutralizing BoNT/A mAbs were identified. Two mAbs bind the C-terminal subdomain of HC, with one binding near the toxin sialoganglioside binding site. The most potently neutralizing mAb binds the N-terminal subdomain of HC, in an area not previously thought to be functionally important. Modeling the epitopes shows how all three mAbs could bind BoNT/A simultaneously and may partially explain the dramatic synergy observed on in vivo toxin neutralization when these antibodies are combined. The results demonstrate how yeast display can be used for domain-level and fine mapping of conformational BoNT antibody epitopes and the mapping results identify three neutralizing BoNT/A epitopes.
PMCID: PMC1994578  PMID: 17059824
epitope mapping; yeast surface display; botulinum neurotoxin; affinity; alanine scanning mutagenesis
19.  The Receptor Binding Domain of Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype A (BoNT/A) Inhibits BoNT/A and BoNT/E Intoxications In Vivo 
The receptor binding domain of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT), also designated the C terminus of the heavy chain (HC), is a promising vaccine candidate against botulism. In this study, a highly efficient expression system for the protein was developed in Escherichia coli, which provided yields that were 1 order of magnitude higher than those reported to date (350 mg HC per liter). The product was highly immunogenic, protecting mice from a challenge with 105 50% lethal dose (LD50) after a single vaccination and generating a neutralizing titer of 49.98 IU/ml after three immunizations. In addition, a single boost with HC increased neutralizing titers by up to 1 order of magnitude in rabbits hyperimmunized against toxoid. Moreover, we demonstrate here for the first time in vivo inhibition of BoNT/A intoxication by HC/A, presumably due to a blockade of the neurotoxin protein receptor SV2. Administration of HC/A delayed the time to death from 10.4 to 27.3 h in mice exposed to a lethal dose of BoNT/A (P = 0.0005). Since BoNT/A and BoNT/E partially share SV2 isoforms as their protein receptors, the ability of HC/A to cross-inhibit BoNT/E intoxication was evaluated. The administration of HC/A together with BoNT/E led to 50% survival and significantly delayed the time to death for the nonsurviving mice (P = 0.003). Furthermore, a combination of HC/A and a subprotective dose of antitoxin E fully protected mice against 850 mouse LD50 of BoNT/E, suggesting complementary mechanisms of protection consisting of toxin neutralization by antibodies and receptor blocking by HC/A.
PMCID: PMC3754506  PMID: 23761665
20.  Analysis of the Neurotoxin Complex Genes in Clostridium botulinum A1-A4 and B1 Strains: BoNT/A3, /Ba4 and /B1 Clusters Are Located within Plasmids 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(12):e1271.
Clostridium botulinum and related clostridial species express extremely potent neurotoxins known as botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) that cause long-lasting, potentially fatal intoxications in humans and other mammals. The amino acid variation within the BoNT is used to categorize the species into seven immunologically distinct BoNT serotypes (A–G) which are further divided into subtypes. The BoNTs are located within two generally conserved gene arrangements known as botulinum progenitor complexes which encode toxin-associated proteins involved in toxin stability and expression.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Because serotype A and B strains are responsible for the vast majority of human botulism cases worldwide, the location, arrangement and sequences of genes from eight different toxin complexes representing four different BoNT/A subtypes (BoNT/A1-Ba4) and one BoNT/B1 strain were examined. The bivalent Ba4 strain contained both the BoNT/A4 and BoNT/bvB toxin clusters. The arrangements of the BoNT/A3 and BoNT/A4 subtypes differed from the BoNT/A1 strains and were similar to those of BoNT/A2. However, unlike the BoNT/A2 subtype, the toxin complex genes of BoNT/A3 and BoNT/A4 were found within large plasmids and not within the chromosome. In the Ba4 strain, both BoNT toxin clusters (A4 and bivalent B) were located within the same 270 kb plasmid, separated by 97 kb. Complete genomic sequencing of the BoNT/B1 strain also revealed that its toxin complex genes were located within a 149 kb plasmid and the BoNT/A3 complex is within a 267 kb plasmid.
Despite their size differences and the BoNT genes they contain, the three plasmids containing these toxin cluster genes share significant sequence identity. The presence of partial insertion sequence (IS) elements, evidence of recombination/gene duplication events, and the discovery of the BoNT/A3, BoNT/Ba4 and BoNT/B1 toxin complex genes within plasmids illustrate the different mechanisms by which these genes move among diverse genetic backgrounds of C. botulinum.
PMCID: PMC2092393  PMID: 18060065
21.  Purification and Characterization of a Novel Subtype A3 Botulinum Neurotoxin 
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) produced by Clostridium botulinum are of considerable importance due to their being the cause of human and animal botulism, their potential as bioterrorism agents, and their utility as important pharmaceuticals. Type A is prominent due to its high toxicity and long duration of action. Five subtypes of type A BoNT are currently recognized; BoNT/A1, -/A2, and -/A5 have been purified, and their properties have been studied. BoNT/A3 is intriguing because it is not effectively neutralized by polyclonal anti-BoNT/A1 antibodies, and thus, it may potentially replace BoNT/A1 for patients who have become refractive to treatment with BoNT/A1 due to antibody formation or other modes of resistance. Purification of BoNT/A3 has been challenging because of its low levels of production in culture and the need for innovative purification procedures. In this study, modified Mueller-Miller medium was used in place of traditional toxin production medium (TPM) to culture C. botulinum A3 (CDC strain) and boost toxin production. BoNT/A3 titers were at least 10-fold higher than those produced in TPM. A purification method was developed to obtain greater than 95% pure BoNT/A3. The specific toxicity of BoNT/A3 as determined by mouse bioassay was 5.8 × 107 50% lethal doses (LD50)/mg. Neutralization of BoNT/A3 toxicity by a polyclonal anti-BoNT/A1 antibody was approximately 10-fold less than the neutralization of BoNT/A1 toxicity. In addition, differences in symptoms were observed between mice that were injected with BoNT/A3 and those that were injected with BoNT/A1. These results indicate that BoNT/A3 has novel biochemical and pharmacological properties compared to those of other subtype A toxins.
PMCID: PMC3346436  PMID: 22367089
22.  Comparison of oral toxicological properties of botulinum neurotoxin serotypes A and B 
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are among the most potent biological toxins for humans. Of the seven known serotypes (A-G) of BoNT, serotypes A, B and E cause most of the foodborne intoxications in humans. BoNTs in nature are associated with non-toxic accessory proteins known as neurotoxin-associated proteins (NAPs), forming large complexes that have been shown to play important roles in oral toxicity. Using mouse intraperitoneal and oral models of botulism, we determined the dose response to both BoNT/B holotoxin and complex toxins, and compared the toxicities of BoNT/B and BoNT/A complexes. Although serotype A and B complexes have similar NAP composition, BoNT/B formed larger-sized complexes, and was approximately 90 times more lethal in mouse oral intoxications than BoNT/A complexes. When normalized by mean lethal dose, mice orally treated with high doses of BoNT/B complex showed a delayed time-to-death when compared with mice treated with BoNT/A complex. Furthermore, we determined the effect of various food matrices on oral toxicity of BoNT/A and BoNT/B complexes. BoNT/B complexes showed lower oral bioavailability in liquid egg matrices when compared to BoNT/A complexes. In summary, our studies revealed several factors that can either enhance or reduce the toxicity and oral bioavailability of BoNTs. Dissecting the complexities of the different BoNT serotypes and their roles in foodborne botulism will lead to a better understanding of toxin biology and aid future food risk assessments.
PMCID: PMC3124623  PMID: 21600236
botulinum neurotoxins; Clostridium botulinum; neurotoxin associated proteins (NAPs); bioavailability; food matrices
23.  Enhanced Neutralization Potency of Botulinum Neurotoxin Antibodies Using a Red Blood Cell-Targeting Fusion Protein 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17491.
Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) potently inhibits cholinergic signaling at the neuromuscular junction. The ideal countermeasures for BoNT exposure are monoclonal antibodies or BoNT antisera, which form BoNT-containing immune complexes that are rapidly cleared from the general circulation. Clearance of opsonized toxins may involve complement receptor-mediated immunoadherence to red blood cells (RBC) in primates or to platelets in rodents. Methods of enhancing immunoadherence of BoNT-specific antibodies may increase their potency in vivo. We designed a novel fusion protein (FP) to link biotinylated molecules to glycophorin A (GPA) on the RBC surface. The FP consists of an scFv specific for murine GPA fused to streptavidin. FP:mAb:BoNT complexes bound specifically to the RBC surface in vitro. In a mouse model of BoNT neutralization, the FP increased the potency of single and double antibody combinations in BoNT neutralization. A combination of two antibodies with the FP gave complete neutralization of 5,000 LD50 BoNT in mice. Neutralization in vivo was dependent on biotinylation of both antibodies and correlated with a reduction of plasma BoNT levels. In a post-exposure model of intoxication, FP:mAb complexes gave complete protection from a lethal BoNT/A1 dose when administered within 2 hours of toxin exposure. In a pre-exposure prophylaxis model, mice were fully protected for 72 hours following administration of the FP:mAb complex. These results demonstrate that RBC-targeted immunoadherence through the FP is a potent enhancer of BoNT neutralization by antibodies in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3047547  PMID: 21399689
24.  Comparison of Extracellular and Intracellular Potency of Botulinum Neurotoxins  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(10):5617-5624.
Levels of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) proteolytic activity were compared using a cell-free assay and living neurons to measure extracellular and intracellular enzymatic activity. Within the cell-free reaction model, BoNT serotypes A and E (BoNT/A and BoNT/E, respectively) were reversibly inhibited by chelating Zn2+ with N,N,N′,N′-tetrakis (2-pyridylmethyl) ethylenediamine (TPEN). BoNT/E required relatively long incubation with TPEN to achieve total inhibition, whereas BoNT/A was inhibited immediately upon mixing. When naïve Zn2+-containing BoNTs were applied to cultured neurons, the cellular action of each BoNT was rapidly inhibited by subsequent addition of TPEN, which is membrane permeable. Excess Zn2+ added to the culture medium several hours after poisoning fully restored intracellular toxin activity. Unlike TPEN, EDTA irreversibly inhibited both BoNT/A and -E within the cell-free in vitro reaction. Excess Zn2+ did not reactivate the EDTA-treated toxins. However, application of EDTA-treated BoNT/A or -E to cultured neurons demonstrated normal toxin action in terms of both blocking neurotransmission and SNAP-25 proteolysis. Different concentrations of EDTA produced toxin preparations with incrementally reduced in vitro proteolytic activities, which, when applied to living neurons showed undiminished cellular potency. This suggests that EDTA renders the BoNT proteolytic domain conformationally inactive when tested with the cell-free reaction, but this change is corrected during entry into neurons. The effect of EDTA is unrelated to Zn2+ because TPEN could be applied to living cells before or after poisoning to produce rapid and reversible inhibition of both BoNTs. Therefore, bound Zn2+ is not required for toxin entry into neurons, and removal of Zn2+ from cytosolic BoNTs does not irreversibly alter toxin structure or function. We conclude that EDTA directly alters both BoNTs in a manner that is independent of Zn2+.
PMCID: PMC1594926  PMID: 16988237
25.  Development of neutralizing scFv-Fc against botulinum neurotoxin A light chain from a macaque immune library 
mAbs  2014;6(2):446-459.
Botulinum toxins (BoNTs) are among the most toxic substances on earth, with serotype A toxin being the most toxic substance known. They are responsible for human botulism, a disease characterized by flaccid muscle paralysis that occurs naturally through food poisoning or the colonization of the gastrointestinal tract by BoNT-producing clostridia. BoNT has been classified as a category A agent by the Centers for Disease Control, and it is one of six agents with the highest potential risk of use as bioweapons. Human or human-like neutralizing antibodies are thus required for the development of anti-botulinum toxin drugs to deal with this possibility. In this study, Macaca fascicularis was hyperimmunized with a recombinant light chain of BoNT/A. An immune phage display library was constructed and, after multistep panning, several scFv with nanomolar affinities that inhibited the endopeptidase activity of BoNT/A1 in vitro as scFv-Fc, with a molar ratio (ab binding site:toxin) of up to 1:1, were isolated. The neutralization of BoNT/A-induced paralysis by the SEM120-IID5, SEM120-IIIC1 and SEM120-IIIC4 antibodies was demonstrated in mouse phrenic nerve-hemidiaphragm preparations with the holotoxin. The neutralization observed is the strongest ever measured in the phrenic nerve-hemidiaphragm assay for BoNT/A1 for a monoclonal antibody. Several scFv-Fc inhibiting the endopeptidase activity of botulinum neurotoxin A were isolated. For SEM120-IID5, SEM120-IIIC1, and SEM120-IIIC4, inhibitory effects in vitro and protection against the toxin ex vivo were observed. The human-like nature of these antibodies makes them promising lead candidates for further development of immunotherapeutics for this disease.
PMCID: PMC3984333  PMID: 24492304
botulinum neurotoxin; Clostridium botulinum; BoNT/A; phage display; in vitro assay; SNAP-25; ex-vivo assay; mouse phrenic nerve-hemidiaphragm assay; scFv-Fc; scFv; macaque; Macaca fascicularis

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