Bacillus anthracis remains a serious bioterrorism concern, and the currently licensed vaccine remains an incomplete solution for population protection from inhalation anthrax and has been associated with concerns regarding efficacy and safety. Thus, understanding how to generate long lasting protective immunity with reduced immunizations or providing protection through post exposure immunotherapeutics are long sought goals. Through evaluation of a large military cohort, we characterized the levels of antibodies against protective antigen and found that over half of anthrax vaccinees had low levels of in vitro toxin neutralization capacity in their sera. Using solid phase epitope mapping and confirmatory assays, we identified several neutralization-associated humoral epitopes and demonstrated that select anti-peptide responses mediated protection in vitro. Finally, passively transferred antibodies specific for select epitopes provided protection in an in vivo lethal toxin mouse model. Identification of these antigenic regions has important implications for vaccine design and the development of directed immunotherapeutics.
anthrax; vaccination; antibodies; protective antigen
The unpredictable nature of bioterrorism and the absence of real-time detection systems have highlighted the need for an efficient postexposure therapy for Bacillus anthracis infection. One approach is passive immunization through the administration of antibodies that mitigate the biological action of anthrax toxin. We isolated and characterized two protective fully human monoclonal antibodies with specificity for protective antigen (PA) and lethal factor (LF). These antibodies, designated IQNPA (anti-PA) and IQNLF (anti-LF), were developed as hybridomas from individuals immunized with licensed anthrax vaccine. The effective concentration of IQNPA that neutralized 50% of the toxin in anthrax toxin neutralization assays was 0.3 nM, while 0.1 nM IQNLF neutralized the same amount of toxin. When combined, the antibodies had additive neutralization efficacy. IQNPA binds to domain IV of PA containing the host cell receptor binding site, while IQNLF recognizes domain I containing the PA binding region in LF. A single 180-μg dose of either antibody given to A/J mice 2.5 h before challenge conferred 100% protection against a lethal intraperitoneal spore challenge with 24 50% lethal doses [LD50s] of B. anthracis Sterne and against rechallenge on day 20 with a more aggressive challenge dose of 41 LD50s. Mice treated with either antibody and infected with B. anthracis Sterne developed detectable murine anti-PA and anti-LF immunoglobulin G antibody responses by day 17 that were dependent on which antibody the mice had received. Based on these results, IQNPA and IQNLF act independently during prophylactic anthrax treatment and do not interfere with the establishment of endogenous immunity.
Potent anthrax toxin neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies were generated from peripheral blood lymphocytes obtained from Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) immune donors. The anti-anthrax toxin human monoclonal antibodies were evaluated for neutralization of anthrax lethal toxin in vivo in the Fisher 344 rat bolus toxin challenge model.
Human peripheral blood lymphocytes from AVA immunized donors were engrafted into severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice. Vaccination with anthrax protective antigen and lethal factor produced a significant increase in antigen specific human IgG in the mouse serum. The antibody producing lymphocytes were immortalized by hybridoma formation. The genes encoding the protective antibodies were rescued and stable cell lines expressing full-length human immunoglobulin were established. The antibodies were characterized by; (1) surface plasmon resonance; (2) inhibition of toxin in an in vitro mouse macrophage cell line protection assay and (3) in vivo in a Fischer 344 bolus lethal toxin challenge model.
The range of antibodies generated were diverse with evidence of extensive hyper mutation, and all were of very high affinity for PA83~1 × 10-10-11M. Moreover all the antibodies were potent inhibitors of anthrax lethal toxin in vitro. A single IV dose of AVP-21D9 or AVP-22G12 was found to confer full protection with as little as 0.5× (AVP-21D9) and 1× (AVP-22G12) molar equivalence relative to the anthrax toxin in the rat challenge prophylaxis model.
Here we describe a powerful technology to capture the recall antibody response to AVA vaccination and provide detailed molecular characterization of the protective human monoclonal antibodies. AVP-21D9, AVP-22G12 and AVP-1C6 protect rats from anthrax lethal toxin at low dose. Aglycosylated versions of the most potent antibodies are also protective in vivo, suggesting that lethal toxin neutralization is not Fc effector mediated. The protective effect of AVP-21D9 persists for at least one week in rats. These potent fully human anti-PA toxin-neutralizing antibodies are attractive candidates for prophylaxis and/or treatment against Anthrax Class A bioterrorism toxins.
Anthrax toxin (ATx) is composed of the binary exotoxins lethal toxin (LTx) and edema toxin (ETx). They have separate effector proteins (edema factor and lethal factor) but have the same binding protein, protective antigen (PA). PA is the primary immunogen in the current licensed vaccine anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA [BioThrax]). AVA confers protective immunity by stimulating production of ATx-neutralizing antibodies, which could block the intoxication process at several steps (binding of PA to the target cell surface, furin cleavage, toxin complex formation, and binding/translocation of ATx into the cell). To evaluate ATx neutralization by anti-AVA antibodies, we developed two low-temperature LTx neutralization activity (TNA) assays that distinguish antibody blocking before and after binding of PA to target cells (noncomplexed [NC] and receptor-bound [RB] TNA assays). These assays were used to investigate anti-PA antibody responses in AVA-vaccinated rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) that survived an aerosol challenge with Bacillus anthracis Ames spores. Results showed that macaque anti-AVA sera neutralized LTx in vitro, even when PA was prebound to cells. Neutralization titers in surviving versus nonsurviving animals and between prechallenge and postchallenge activities were highly correlated. These data demonstrate that AVA stimulates a myriad of antibodies that recognize multiple neutralizing epitopes and confirm that change, loss, or occlusion of epitopes after PA is processed from PA83 to PA63 at the cell surface does not significantly affect in vitro neutralizing efficacy. Furthermore, these data support the idea that the full-length PA83 monomer is an appropriate immunogen for inclusion in next-generation anthrax vaccines.
B. anthracis is the causative agent of anthrax. Pathogenesis is primarily mediated through the exotoxins lethal factor and edema factor, which bind protective antigen (PA) to gain entry into the host cell. The current anthrax vaccine (AVA, Biothrax™) consists of aluminum-adsorbed cell-free filtrates of unencapsulated B. anthracis, wherein PA is thought to be the principle target of neutralization. In this study, we evaluated the efficacy of the natural adjuvant, C3d, versus alum in eliciting an anti-PA humoral response and found that C3d conjugation to PA and emulsion in incomplete Freund's adjuvant (IFA) imparted superior protection from anthrax challenge relative to PA in IFA or PA adsorbed to alum. Relative to alum-PA, immunization of mice with C3d-PA/IFA augmented both the onset and sustained production of PA-specific antibodies, including neutralizing antibodies to the receptor-binding portion (domain 4) of PA. C3d-PA/IFA was efficacious when administered either i.p. or s.c., and in adolescent mice lacking a fully mature B cell compartment. Induction of PA-specific antibodies by C3d-PA/IFA correlated with increased efficiency of germinal center formation and plasma cell generation. Importantly, C3d-PA immunization effectively protected mice from intranasal challenge with B. anthracis spores, and was approximately 10-fold more effective than alum-PA immunization or PA/IFA based on dose challenge. These data suggest that incorporation of C3d as an adjuvant may overcome shortcomings of the currently licensed aluminum-based vaccine, and may confer protection in the early days following acute anthrax exposure.
To reduce the biothreat posed by anthrax, efforts are under way to improve the protection afforded by vaccination. This work examines the ability of immunostimulatory CpG oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) adsorbed onto cationic polylactide-co-glycolide (PLG) microparticles (CpG ODN-PLG) to accelerate and boost the protective immunity elicited by Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA, the licensed human anthrax vaccine). The results indicate that coadministering CpG ODN-PLG with AVA induces a stronger and faster immunoglobulin G response against the protective antigen of anthrax than AVA alone. Immunized mice were protected from lethal anthrax challenge within 1 week of vaccination with CpG ODN-PLG plus AVA, with the level of protection correlating with serum immunoglobulin G anti-protective antigen titers.
The protective effects of polyclonal antisera produced by injecting guinea pigs with protective antigen (PA), the chemical anthrax vaccine AVA, or Sterne spore vaccine, as well as those of toxin-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) produced against PA, lethal factor, and edema factor, were examined in animals infected with Bacillus anthracis spores. Only the anti-PA polyclonal serum significantly protected the guinea pigs from death, with 67% of infected animals surviving. Although none of the MAbs was protective, one PA MAb caused a significant delay in time to death. Our findings demonstrate that antibodies produced against only PA can provide passive protection against anthrax infection in guinea pigs.
A 3-dose (0, 1, and 6 months) intramuscular (3-IM) priming series of a human dose (HuAVA) and dilutions of up to 1:10 of anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) provided statistically significant levels of protection (60 to 100%) against inhalation anthrax for up to 4 years in rhesus macaques. Serum anti-protective antigen (anti-PA) IgG and lethal toxin neutralization activity (TNA) were detectable following a single injection of HuAVA or 1:5 AVA or following two injections of diluted vaccine (1:10, 1:20, or 1:40 AVA). Anti-PA and TNA were highly correlated (overall r2 = 0.89 for log10-transformed data). Peak responses were seen at 6.5 months. In general, with the exception of animals receiving 1:40 AVA, serum anti-PA and TNA responses remained significantly above control levels at 28.5 months (the last time point measured for 1:20 AVA), and through 50.5 months for the HuAVA and 1:5 and 1:10 AVA groups (P < 0.05). PA-specific gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and interleukin-4 (IL-4) CD4+ cell frequencies and T cell stimulation indices were sustained through 50.5 months (the last time point measured). PA-specific memory B cell frequencies were highly variable but, in general, were detectable in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) by 2 months, were significantly above control levels by 7 months, and remained detectable in the HuAVA and 1:5 and 1:20 AVA groups through 42 months (the last time point measured). HuAVA and diluted AVA elicited a combined Th1/Th2 response and robust immunological priming, with sustained production of high-avidity PA-specific functional antibody, long-term immune cell competence, and immunological memory (30 months for 1:20 AVA and 52 months for 1:10 AVA). Vaccinated animals surviving inhalation anthrax developed high-magnitude anamnestic anti-PA IgG and TNA responses.
Recipients of licensed anthrax vaccine (AVA; Biothrax) could serve as a source of hyperimmune plasma and immunoglobulin for therapy and prophylaxis. We measured serum antibodies during serial weekly to biweekly plasmapheresis in 38 individuals previously vaccinated with 4 to 27 doses of AVA. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) to protective antigen (PA) and toxin neutralization assay (TNA) antibody levels were highly correlated (r = 0.86930 and P < 0.0001 for anti-PA concentration versus TNA concentration). Significant decreases in antibody titer and concentration were observed over time when compared for the number of days from the last AVA injection (P < 0.0001 for both anti-PA and TNA concentration) and for the number of days from the first plasmapheresis (P = 0.0007 for anti-PA concentration and P = 0.0025 for TNA concentration). The rate of the decrease in total IgG concentration (half-life [t1/2] = 198.90 days after first plasmapheresis) was significantly less than the decrease in anti-PA IgG (t1/2 = 63.53 days) (P < 0.0001), indicating that the reduction in anti-PA IgG was more likely due to natural decay than plasmapheresis. The time since the last injection and the time after initial plasmapheresis are important elements in considering an optimal schedule for collecting anthrax hyperimmune plasma. Good correlation between IgG to PA and TNA antibodies suggests that the anti-PA enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay can be used as a high-throughput screen for functional immune reactivity in donor plasma units.
Anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA; BioThrax), the current FDA-licensed human anthrax vaccine, contains various amounts of the three anthrax toxin components, protective antigen (PA), lethal factor (LF), and edema factor (EF). While antibody to PA is sufficient to mediate protection against anthrax in animal models, it is not known if antibodies to LF or EF contribute to protection in humans. Toxin-neutralizing activity was evaluated in sera from AVA-vaccinated volunteers, all of whom had antibody responses to LF and EF, as well as PA. The contribution of antibodies to LF and EF was assessed using mouse macrophage J774A.1 cells by examining neutralization of LF-induced lysis using alamarBlue reduction and neutralization of EF-induced cyclic AMP increases by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Antibody responses to LF and EF were low compared to those to PA, and the amount of LF or EF in the assay could exceed the amount of antibodies to LF or EF. Higher titers were seen for most individuals when the LF or EF concentration was limiting compared to when LF or EF was in excess, initially suggesting that antibody to LF or EF augmented protection. However, depletion of LF and EF antibodies in sera did not result in a significant decrease in toxin neutralization. Overall, this study suggests that AVA-induced LF and EF antibodies do not significantly contribute to anthrax toxin neutralization in humans and that antibodies to PA are sufficient to neutralize toxin activity.
In order to identify the combination of antibody-mediated mechanisms of neutralization that result from vaccination with anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA), we isolated antibody secreting cells from a single donor seven days after booster vaccination with AVA and generated nine fully human monoclonal antibodies (hmAb) with high specificity for protective antigen (PA). Two of the antibodies were able to neutralize lethal toxin in vitro at low concentrations (IC50: p6C01, 0.12 µg/ml and p6F01, 0.45 µg/ml). Passive transfer of either of these hmAbs to A/J mice prior to challenge with lethal toxin conferred 80–90% protection. We demonstrate that hmAb p6C01 is neutralizing by preventing furin cleavage of PA in a dose-dependent manner, but the mechanism of p6F01 is unclear. Three additional antibodies were found to bind to domain 3 of PA and prevent oligomerization, although they did not confer significant protection in vivo and showed a significant prozone-like effect in vitro. These fully human antibodies provide insight into the neutralizing response to AVA for future subunit vaccine and passive immunotherapeutic cocktail design.
anthrax; Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed; human monoclonal antibodies; passive immunotherapeutics; protective antigen
Human vaccination with BioThrax™ requires six injections followed by annual boosters. This makes it difficult for the compliance of the immunization program and underscores the need for development of a new and optimized vaccination protocol. Current research aims to demonstrate the proof of concept to develop a needle free mucosal immunization protocol using a murine anthrax model. A/J mice were immunized with BioThrax™ via an intranasal route. Sera, saliva, vaginal, and nasal washes were evaluated for protective antigen (PA) specific antibody responses by ELISA. Antigen-specific, antibody-secreting lymphocytes were measured by ELISPOT. Sera neutralization antibody titers were determined by in vitro anthrax lethal toxin (Letx) neutralization assay. Immunized animals were challenged by a lethal dose of Bacillus anthracis Sterne spores to determine the efficacy of the vaccination. Nasal mucosal immunization with BioThrax™ elicited robust serum and mucosal antibody responses against PA. The antigen specific antibodies neutralized anthrax Letx, as demonstrated by in vitro neutralization assays. Two doses of intranasal BioThrax™ were sufficient to completely protect A/J mice against challenge with 100×LD 50 Bacillus anthracis Sterne spores. The data suggests that intranasal administration may be an effective immunization modality for an improved immunization program against anthrax.
Anthrax Vaccine; Bacillus anthracis; Mucosal Immunization; Protective Immunity
The neutralizing antibody response to the protective antigen (PA) component of anthrax toxin elicited by approved anthrax vaccines is an accepted correlate for vaccine-mediated protection against anthrax. We reasoned that a human anti-PA monoclonal antibody (MAb) selected on the basis of superior toxin neutralization activity might provide potent protection against anthrax. The fully human MAb (also referred to as MDX-1303 or Valortim) was chosen from a large panel of anti-PA human MAbs generated using transgenic mice immunized with recombinant PA solely on the basis of in vitro anthrax toxin neutralization. This MAb was effective in prophylactic and postsymptomatic treatment of rabbits exposed to aerosolized anthrax spores, and a single intramuscular injection of 1 mg/kg of body weight fully protected cynomolgus monkeys challenged with aerosolized anthrax spores. Importantly, MAb 1303 defines a novel neutralizing epitope that requires Fc receptor engagement for maximal activity. F(ab′)2 fragments of MAb 1303, which retain equivalent affinity for PA, are 10- to 100-fold less potent in neutralizing anthrax toxin in vitro. Addition of Fc receptor-blocking antibodies also greatly reduced the activity of MAb 1303. Moreover, we found that the neutralizing activity of mouse, rabbit, and human antisera elicited by PA vaccines was effectively abrogated by blocking Fc receptors. Selection of an anti-PA MAb by using a functional assay that is a surrogate for protection has resulted in the identification of a fully human MAb with potent activity in vivo and uncovered a previously unrecognized mechanism of antibody-mediated toxin neutralization that is important for currently used anthrax vaccines.
Several highly attenuated spore-forming nontoxinogenic and nonencapsulated Bacillus anthracis vaccines differing in levels of expression of recombinant protective antigen (rPA) were constructed. Biochemical analyses (including electrospray mass spectroscopy and N terminus amino acid sequencing) as well as biological and immunological tests demonstrated that the rPA retains the characteristics of native PA. A single immunization of guinea pigs with 5 × 107 spores of one of these recombinant strains, MASC-10, expressing high levels of rPA (≥100 μg/ml) from a constitutive heterologous promoter induced high titers of neutralizing anti-PA antibodies. This immune response was long lasting (at least 12 months) and provided protection against a lethal challenge of virulent (Vollum) anthrax spores. The recombinant B. anthracis spore vaccine appears to be more efficacious than the vegetative cell vaccine. Furthermore, while results clearly suggest a direct correlation between the level of expression of PA and the potency of the vaccine, they also suggest that some B. anthracis spore-associated antigen(s) may contribute in a significant manner to protective immunity.
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, elaborates a tripartite toxin composed of two enzymatically active subunits, lethal factor (LF) and edema factor (EF) which, when associated with a cell-binding component, protective antigen (PA), form lethal toxin (LT) and edema toxin (ET), respectively. In this preliminary study we characterised the toxin-specific antibody responses observed in 17 individuals infected with cutaneous anthrax. The majority of the toxin-specific antibody responses observed following infection were directed against LF with IgG detected as early as 4 days after onset of symptoms in contrast to the later and lower EF- and PA-specific IgG responses. Unlike the case with infection, the predominant toxin-specific antibody response of those immunized with the US AVA and UK AVP licensed anthrax vaccines was directed against PA.. We observed that the LF-specific human antibodies were, like anti-PA antibodies, able to neutralize toxin activity, suggesting the possibility that they may contribute to protection. We conclude that an antibody response to LF might be a more sensitive diagnostic marker of anthrax than to PA. The ability of human LF-specific antibodies to neutralize toxin activity supports the possible inclusion of LF in future anthrax vaccines.
anthrax; lethal factor; edema factor; protective antigen
Protective antigen (PA) is the cell surface recognition unit of the binary anthrax toxin system and the primary immunogenic component in both the current and proposed “next-generation” anthrax vaccines. Several studies utilizing animal models have indicated that PA-specific antibodies, acquired by either active or passive immunization, are sufficient to protect against infection with Bacillus anthracis. To investigate the human antibody response to anthrax immunization, we have established a large panel of human PA-specific monoclonal antibodies derived from multiple individuals vaccinated with the currently approved anthrax vaccine BioThrax. We have determined that although these antibodies bind PA in standard binding assays such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, Western blotting, capture assays, and dot blots, less than 25% are capable of neutralizing lethal toxin (LT) in vitro. Nonneutralizing antibodies also fail to neutralize toxin when present in combination with other nonneutralizing paratopes. Although neutralizing antibodies recognize determinants throughout the PA monomer, they are significantly less common among those paratopes that bind to the immunodominant amino-terminal portion of the molecule. These findings demonstrate that PA binding alone is not sufficient to neutralize LT and suggest that for an antibody to effectively block PA-mediated toxicity, it must bind to PA such that one of the requisite toxin functions is disrupted. A vaccine design strategy that directed a higher percentage of the antibody response toward neutralizing epitopes may result in a more efficacious vaccine for the prevention of anthrax infection.
Vaccination by anthrax protective antigen (PA)-based vaccines requires multiple immunization, underlying the need to develop more efficacious vaccines or alternative vaccination regimens. In spite of the vast use of PA-based vaccines, the definition of a marker for protective immunity is still lacking. Here we describe studies designed to help define such markers. To this end we have immunized guinea pigs by different methods and monitored the immune response and the corresponding extent of protection against a lethal challenge with anthrax spores. Active immunization was performed by a single injection using one of two methods: (i) vaccination with decreasing amounts of PA and (ii) vaccination with constant amounts of PA that had been thermally inactivated for increasing periods. In both studies a direct correlation between survival and neutralizing-antibody titer was found (r2 = 0.92 and 0.95, respectively). Most significantly, in the two protocols a similar neutralizing-antibody titer range provided 50% protection. Furthermore, in a complementary study involving passive transfer of PA hyperimmune sera to naive animals, a similar correlation between neutralizing-antibody titers and protection was found. In all three immunization studies, neutralization titers of at least 300 were sufficient to confer protection against a dose of 40 50% lethal doses (LD50) of virulent anthrax spores of the Vollum strain. Such consistency in the correlation of protective immunity with anti-PA antibody titers was not observed for antibody titers determined by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Taken together, these results clearly demonstrate that neutralizing antibodies to PA constitute a major component of the protective immunity against anthrax and suggest that this parameter could be used as a surrogate marker for protection.
The active component of the licensed human anthrax vaccine (BioThrax™, or AVA) is a Bacillus anthracis toxin known as protective antigen (PA). Second generation anthrax vaccines currently under development are also based on a recombinant form of PA. Since the current and future anthrax vaccines are based on this toxin, it is important that the immunobiology of this protein in vaccinated humans be understood in detail. We have isolated and analyzed the PA-specific antibody repertoire from an AVA-vaccinated individual. When examined at the clonal level, we find an antibody response that is complex in terms of the combinatorial elements and immunoglobulin variable genes employed. All PA-specific antibodies had undergone somatic hypermutation and class switch recombination, both signs of affinity maturation. Although the antigenic epitopes recognized by the response were distributed throughout the PA monomer, the majority of antibodies arising in this individual following vaccination recognize determinants located on the amino-terminal (PA20) sub-domain of the molecule. This latter finding may have implications for the rational design of future PA-based anthrax vaccines.
Bacillus anthracis; protective antigen; PA; antibody repertoire; repertoire analysis; anthrax; vaccine; human immune response; human monoclonal antibody
Bacillus anthracis toxins can be neutralized by antibodies against protective antigen (PA), a component of anthrax toxins. Anthrivig (human anthrax immunoglobulin), also known as AIGIV, derived from plasma of humans immunized with BioThrax (anthrax vaccine adsorbed), is under development for the treatment of toxemia following exposure to anthrax spores. The pharmacokinetics (PK) of AIGIV was assessed in naive animals and healthy human volunteers, and the efficacy of AIGIV was assessed in animals exposed via inhalation to aerosolized B. anthracis spores. In the clinical study, safety, tolerability, and PK were evaluated in three dose cohorts (3.5, 7.1, and 14.2 mg/kg of body weight of anti-PA IgG) with 30 volunteers per cohort. The elimination half-life of AIGIV in rabbits, nonhuman primates (NHPs), and humans following intravenous infusion was estimated to be approximately 4, 12, and 24 days, respectively, and dose proportionality was observed. In a time-based treatment study, AIGIV protected 89 to 100% of animals when administered 12 h postexposure; however, a lower survival rate of 39% was observed when animals were treated 24 h postexposure, underscoring the need for early intervention. In a separate set of studies, animals were treated on an individual basis upon detection of a clinical sign or biomarker of disease, namely, a significant increase in body temperature (SIBT) in rabbits and presence of PA in the serum of NHPs. In these trigger-based intervention studies, AIGIV induced up to 75% survival in rabbits depending on the dose and severity of toxemia at the time of treatment. In NHPs, up to 33% survival was observed in AIGIV-treated animals. (The clinical study has been registered at ClinicalTrials.gov under registration no. NCT00845650.)
The licensed anthrax vaccine and many of the new anthrax vaccines being developed are based on protective antigen (PA), a nontoxic component of anthrax toxin. For this reason, an understanding of the immune response to PA vaccination is important. In this study, we examined the antibody response elicited by PA-based vaccines and identified the domains of PA that contribute to that response in humans as well as nonhuman primates (NHPs) and rabbits, animal species that will be used to generate efficacy data to support approval of new anthrax vaccines. To this end, we developed a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), using purified recombinant forms of intact PA and its individual domains. We found that PA-based vaccines elicited IgG antibodies to each of the four PA domains in all three species. We also developed a competitive toxin neutralization assay, which showed that rabbits, NHPs, and humans all have functional antibody populations that bind to domains 1, 3, and 4. While the domain specificities of the antibody responses elicited by PA-based vaccines were similar in humans, NHPs, and rabbits, competitive assays suggested that humans may have a more significant secondary population of IgG antibodies that bind to partially unfolded or incorrectly folded PA. These findings provide information that will be useful when linking animal protection data to humans via an antibody bridge to establish efficacy of new anthrax vaccines.
The bipartite anthrax lethal toxin (LeTx) consisting of protective antigen (PA) and lethal factor (LF) is a major virulence factor contributing to death from systemic Bacillus anthracis infection. The current vaccine elicits antibodies directed primarily to PA; however, in experimental settings serologic responses to LF can neutralize LeTx and contribute to protection against infection. The goals of the present study were to identify sequential B-cell epitopes of LF and to determine the capacity of these determinants to bind neutralizing antibodies. Sera of recombinant LF-immunized A/J mice exhibited high titers of immunoglobulin G anti-LF reactivity that neutralized LeTx in vitro 78 days after the final booster immunization and protected the mice from in vivo challenge with 3 50% lethal doses of LeTx. These sera bound multiple discontinuous epitopes, and there were major clusters of reactivity on native LF. Strikingly, all three neutralizing, LF-specific monoclonal antibodies tested bound specific peptide sequences that coincided with sequential epitopes identified in polyclonal antisera from recombinant LF-immunized mice. This study confirms that LF induces high-titer protective antibodies in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, the binding of short LF peptides by LF-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibodies suggests that generation of protective antibodies by peptide vaccination may be feasible for this antigen. This study paves the way for a more effective anthrax vaccine by identifying discontinuous peptide epitopes of LF.
Here we confirm that intranasal (IN) dry powder anthrax vaccine formulations are able to protect rabbits against aerosol challenge 9 weeks after a single immunization. The optimum dose of rPA in our dry powder anthrax vaccine formulation in rabbits was experimentally determined to be 150 μg and therefore was chosen as the target dose for all subsequent experiments. Rabbits received a single dose of either 150 μg rPA, 150 μg rPA + 150 μg of a conjugated 10-mer peptide representing the B. anthracis capsule (conj), or 150 μg of conj alone. All dry powder formulations contained MPL and chitosan (ChiSys®). Significant anti-rPA titers and anthrax lethal toxin neutralizing antibody (TNA) levels were seen with both rPA containing vaccines, although rPA-specific IgG and TNA levels were reduced in rabbits immunized with rPA plus conj. Nine weeks after immunization, rabbits were exposed to a mean aerosol challenge dose of 278 LD50 of Ames spores. Groups immunized with rPA or with rPA + conj had significant increases in survivor proportions compared to the negative control group by Logrank test (p = 0.0001 and 0.003, respectively), and survival was not statistically different for the rPA and rPA + conj immunized groups (p = 0.63). These data demonstrate that a single immunization with our dry powder anthrax vaccine can protect against a lethal aerosol spore challenge 9 weeks later.
Neutralizing antibodies to Bacillus anthracis protective antigen (PA), a component of anthrax toxin, mediate protection against anthrax. PA is antigenically complex and can elicit protective and nonprotective antibodies. Furthermore, vaccinated individuals demonstrate considerable variability in their antibody responses to PA. To explore the relationship between PA structure and antigenicity, we produced Escherichia coli strains expressing full-length PA (PA1-4), domains 2 to 4 (PA2-4), domain 1, (PA1), and domain 4 (PA4) and evaluated the immunogenicities and protective efficacies of the protein fractions in four mouse strains (strains A/J, BALB/c, C57BL/6, and Swiss Webster). Immunization with PA1-4 resulted in significantly higher lethal toxin-neutralizing antibody titers than immunization with any recombinant protein (rPA) fraction of PA. The magnitude and neutralizing capacity of the antibody response to full-length PA and its fragments varied depending on the mouse strain. We found no correlation between the antibody titer and the neutralizing antibody titer for A/J and Swiss Webster mice. In C57BL/6 mice, antibody titers and neutralization capacity correlated for two of four rPA domain proteins tested, while BALB/c mice displayed a similar correlation with only one rPA. By correlating the reactivity of immune sera with solvent-exposed linear peptide segments of PA, we tentatively assign the presence of four new linear B-cell epitopes in PA amino acids 121 to 150, 143 to 158, 339 to 359, and 421 to 440. We conclude that the genetic background of the host determines the relative efficacy of the antitoxin response. The results suggest that the variability observed in vaccination studies with PA-derived vaccines is a result of host heterogeneity and implies a need to develop other antigens as vaccine candidates.
Improved vaccines and adjuvants are being developed to reduce the threat posed by a terrorist attack involving aerosolized anthrax spores. Nevertheless, uncertainty persists concerning the relative benefits of inducing mucosal vs systemic immunity to host survival following inhalational exposure to anthrax spores. This work examines the effect of delivering the licensed human vaccine (Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed, AVA) combined with a CpG oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) adjuvant intraperitoneally or intranasally to A/J mice. Results indicate that protection from inhalational anthrax correlates with the induction of a strong systemic rather than mucosal immune response, and demonstrate that protection is significantly improved and accelerated by the addition of CpG ODN.
Anthrax; vaccine; protection
Live, attenuated strains of Bacillus anthracis lacking either the capsule plasmid pXO2, the toxin plasmid pXO1, or both were tested for their efficacy as vaccines against intravenous challenge with anthrax toxin in Fischer 344 rats and against aerosol or intramuscular challenge with virulent anthrax spores in Hartley guinea pigs. Animals immunized with toxigenic, nonencapsulated (pXO1+, pXO2-) strains survived toxin and spore challenge and demonstrated postimmunization antibody titers to the three components of anthrax toxin (protective antigen, lethal factor, and edema factor). Immunization with two nontoxigenic, encapsulated (pXO1-, pXO2+), Pasteur vaccine strains neither provided protection nor elicited titers to any of the toxin components. Therefore, to immunize successfully against anthrax toxin or spore challenge, attenuated, live strains of B. anthracis must produce the toxin components specified by the pXO1 plasmid.