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1.  Analysis of the Mechanisms That Underlie Absorption of Botulinum Toxin by the Inhalation Route 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(12):4133-4142.
Botulinum toxin is a highly potent oral and inhalation poison, which means that the toxin must have an efficient mechanism for penetration of epithelial barriers. To date, three models for toxin passage across epithelial barriers have been proposed: (i) the toxin itself undergoes binding and transcytosis; (ii) an auxiliary protein, HA35, transports toxin from the apical to the basal side of epithelial cells; and (iii) an auxiliary protein, HA35, acts on the basal side of epithelial cells to disrupt tight junctions, and this permits paracellular flux of toxin. These models were evaluated by studying toxin absorption following inhalation exposure in mice. Three types of experiments were conducted. In the first, the potency of pure neurotoxin was compared with that of progenitor toxin complex, which contains HA35. The results showed that the rate and extent of toxin absorption, as well as the potency of absorbed toxin, did not depend upon, nor were they enhanced by, the presence of HA35. In the second type of experiment, the potencies of pure neurotoxin and progenitor toxin complex were compared in the absence or presence of antibodies on the apical side of epithelial cells. Antibodies directed against the neurotoxin protected against challenge, but antibodies against HA35 did not. In the final type of experiment, the potency of pure neurotoxin and toxin complex was compared in animals pretreated to deliver antibodies to the basal side of epithelial cells. Once again, antibodies directed against the neurotoxin provided resistance to challenge, but antibodies directed against HA35 did not. Taken collectively, the data indicate that the toxin by itself is capable of crossing epithelial barriers. The data do not support any hypothesis in which HA35 is essential for toxin penetration of epithelial barriers.
PMCID: PMC3497405  PMID: 22966044
Vaccine  2009;27(19):2616-2624.
The recombinant, catalytically active light chain of botulinum toxin type A was evaluated as a potential vaccine candidate. Previous studies have shown that the light chain can elicit protective immunity in vivo. [5], but the underlying basis for this observation was not determined. In the present study, antibodies directed against the light chain were shown to act at three different sites in the body to produce neutralization. Firstly, these antibodies acted to block toxin absorption into the body. This was demonstrated in vitro, in studies on binding and transport of toxin across epithelial monolayers, and in vivo, in studies on inhalation poisoning. Secondly, anti-light chain antibodies acted to promote clearance of toxin from the general circulation. This was demonstrated in vivo in studies on toxin levels in blood and in parallel studies on toxin accumulation in liver and spleen. Finally, anti-light chain antibodies acted to protect cholinergic nerves from botulinum toxin action. This was demonstrated in two types of in vitro assays: rate of paralysis of murine phrenic nerve-hemidiaphragm preparations and extent of binding to Neuro-2a cells. When taken together, these data show that anti-light chain antibodies can evoke three layers of protection against botulinum toxin.
PMCID: PMC2709450  PMID: 19428868
Botulinum toxin; Botulism vaccine; Neutralization
3.  Epitope Characterization of Sero-Specific Monoclonal Antibody to Clostridium botulinum Neurotoxin Type A 
Hybridoma  2011;30(6):503-510.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are extremely potent toxins that can contaminate foods and are a public health concern. Anti-BoNT antibodies have been described that are capable of detecting BoNTs; however there still exists a need for accurate and sensitive detection capabilities for BoNTs. Herein, we describe the characterization of a panel of eight monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) generated to the non-toxic receptor-binding domain of BoNT/A (HC50/A) developed using a high-throughput screening approach. In two independent hybridoma fusions, two groups of four IgG MAbs were developed against recombinant HC50/A. Of these eight, only a single MAb, F90G5-3, bound to the whole BoNT/A protein and was characterized further. The F90G5-3 MAb slightly prolonged time to death in an in vivo mouse bioassay and was mapped by pepscan to a peptide epitope in the N-terminal subdomain of HC50/A (HCN25/A) comprising amino acid residues 985WTLQDTQEIKQRVVF999, an epitope that is highly immunoreactive in humans. Furthermore, we demonstrate that F90G5-3 binds BoNT/A with nanomolar efficiency. Together, our results indicate that F90G5-3 is of potential value as a diagnostic immunoreagent for BoNT/A capture assay development and bio-forensic analysis.
PMCID: PMC3278809  PMID: 22149274
4.  Immunization of mice with the non-toxic HC50 domain of botulinum neurotoxin presented by rabies virus particles induces a strong immune response affording protection against high-dose botulinum neurotoxin challenge 
Vaccine  2011;29(28):4638-4645.
We previously showed that rabies virus (RABV) virions are excellent vehicles for antigen presentation. Here, a reverse genetic approach was applied to generate recombinant RABV that express a chimeric protein composed of the heavy chain carboxyterminal half (HC50) of botulinum neurotoxin type A (BoNT/A) and RABV glycoprotein (G). To promote surface expression and incorporation of HC50/A into RABV virions, the RABV glycoprotein (G) ER translocation sequence, various fragments of RABV ectodomain (ED) and cytoplasmic domain were fused to HC50/A. The HC50/A chimeric proteins were expressed on the surface of cells infected with all of the recombinant RABVs, however, the highest level of surface expression was detected by utilizing 30 amino acids of the RABV G ED (HV50/A-E30). Our results also indicated that this chimeric protein was effectively incorporated into RABV virions. Immunization of mice with inactivated RABV-HC50/A-E30 virions induced a robust anti-HC50/A IgG antibody response that efficiently neutralized circulating BoNT/A in vivo, and protected mice against 1000 fold the lethal dose of BoNT/A.
PMCID: PMC3114282  PMID: 21549784
5.  Symptomatic Relief of Botulinum Neurotoxin/A Intoxication with Aminopyridines - A New Twist on an Old Molecule 
ACS chemical biology  2010;5(12):1183-1191.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are the etiological agents responsible for botulism, a disease characterized by peripheral neuromuscular blockade and a characteristic flaccid paralysis of humans. BoNT/A is the most toxic protein known to man and has been classified by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) as one of the six highest-risk threat agents for bioterrorism. Of particular concern is the apparent lack of clinical interventions that can reverse cellular intoxication. Efforts to uncover molecules that can act within an intoxicated cell so as to provide symptomatic relief to BoNT/A are paramount. Aminopyridines have shown clinical efficacy for multiple sclerosis treatment as well as BoNT/A intoxication; yet, aminopyridines for BoNT/A treatment has been abandoned because of blood brain barrier (BBB) penetration producing undesired neurotoxic side effects. Two aminopyridines, (5 and 11), exhibited inhibitory activity toward Shaker-IR voltage-gated potassium (KV1.x) channels with potencies similar to that of the previous “gold-standard”, 3,4-diaminopyridine (3,4-DAP), including reversal of symptoms from BoNT-induced paralysis in phrenic nerve-hemidiaphragm preparations. Importantly, pharmacokinetic experiments revealed a lack of BBB penetration of 5, which is a significant advancement toward resolving the neurotoxicity issues associated with prolonged 3,4-DAP treatments. Finally, 5 was found to be as effective as 3,4-DAP in rescuing BoNT-poisoned mice in the mouse lethality assay, signifying an optimized balance between the undesired permeability across the BBB, and the required permeability across lipid cellular membranes. The results demonstrate that 5 is the most promising small molecule K+ channel inhibitor discovered to date for the treatment of BoNT/A intoxication.
PMCID: PMC3003761  PMID: 20936877
Botulinum Neurotoxin; aminopyridine; K+ channel inhibitors
6.  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
7.  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
8.  Protective immunity against botulism provided by a single dose vaccination with an adenovirus-vectored vaccine 
Vaccine  2007;25(43):7540-7548.
Botulinum neurotoxins cause botulism, a neuroparalytic disease in humans and animals. We constructed a replication-incompetent adenovirus encoding a synthesized codon-optimized gene for expression of the heavy chain C-fragment (HC50) of botulinum neurotoxin type C (BoNT/C). This recombinant human serotype 5 adenoviral vector (Ad5) was evaluated as a genetic vaccine candidate against botulism caused by BoNT/C in a mouse model. A one-time intramuscular injection with 105 to 2 × 107 pfu of adenoviral vectors elicited robust serum antibody responses against HC50 of BoNT/C as assessed by ELISA. Immune sera showed high potency in neutralizing the active BoNT/C in vitro. After a single dose of 2 × 107 pfu adenoviral vectors, the animals were completely protected against intraperitoneal challenge with 100 × MLD50 of active BoNT/C. The protective immunity appeared to be vaccine dose-dependent. The anti-toxin protective immunity could last for at least 7 months without a booster injection. In addition, we observed that pre-existing immunity to the wild type Ad5 in the host had no significant influence on the protective efficacy of vaccination. The data suggest that an adenovirus-vectored genetic vaccine is a highly efficient prophylaxis candidate against botulism.
PMCID: PMC2077857  PMID: 17897756
Botulism Vaccine; Protective immunity; Replication-incompetent adenovirus
9.  Neutralization of Botulinum Neurotoxin by a Human Monoclonal Antibody Specific for the Catalytic Light Chain 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(8):e3023.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are a family of category A select bioterror agents and the most potent biological toxins known. Cloned antibody therapeutics hold considerable promise as BoNT therapeutics, but the therapeutic utility of antibodies that bind the BoNT light chain domain (LC), a metalloprotease that functions in the cytosol of cholinergic neurons, has not been thoroughly explored.
Methods and Findings
We used an optimized hybridoma method to clone a fully human antibody specific for the LC of serotype A BoNT (BoNT/A). The 4LCA antibody demonstrated potent in vivo neutralization when administered alone and collaborated with an antibody specific for the HC. In Neuro-2a neuroblastoma cells, the 4LCA antibody prevented the cleavage of the BoNT/A proteolytic target, SNAP-25. Unlike an antibody specific for the HC, the 4LCA antibody did not block entry of BoNT/A into cultured cells. Instead, it was taken up into synaptic vesicles along with BoNT/A. The 4LCA antibody also directly inhibited BoNT/A catalytic activity in vitro.
An antibody specific for the BoNT/A LC can potently inhibit BoNT/A in vivo and in vitro, using mechanisms not previously associated with BoNT-neutralizing antibodies. Antibodies specific for BoNT LC may be valuable components of an antibody antidote for BoNT exposure.
PMCID: PMC2515629  PMID: 18714390
10.  Trivalent Vaccine against Botulinum Toxin Serotypes A, B, and E That Can Be Administered by the Mucosal Route▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(6):3043-3054.
Most reports dealing with vaccines against botulinum toxin have focused on the injection route of administration. This is unfortunate, because a mucosal vaccine is likely to be more efficacious for patients and pose fewer risks to health care workers and to the environment. Therefore, efforts were made to generate a mucosal vaccine that provides protection against the botulinum serotypes that typically cause human illness (serotypes A, B, and E). This work demonstrated that carboxy-terminal peptides derived from each of the three serotypes were able to bind to and penetrate human epithelial barriers in vitro, and there was no cross inhibition of membrane binding and transcytosis. The three polypeptides were then tested in vivo as a trivalent vaccine that could be administered to mice by the intranasal route. The results indicated that the mucosal vaccine evoked high secretory titers of immunoglobulin A (IgA), as well as high circulating titers of IgG and IgA, and it also evoked a high level of resistance to challenge with toxin. The immunoglobulin responses and the levels of resistance to challenge were increased by coadministration of adjuvants, such as chitosan and vitamin E. At least three mechanisms were identified to account for the antibody-induced resistance: (i) blockade of toxin absorption across epithelial cells, (ii) enhanced clearance of toxin from the circulation, and (iii) blockade of toxin action at the neuromuscular junction. These results are a compelling demonstration that a mucosal vaccine against multiple serotypes of botulinum toxin has been identified.
PMCID: PMC1932861  PMID: 17371853
11.  Inhalational Poisoning by Botulinum Toxin and Inhalation Vaccination with Its Heavy-Chain Component  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(3):1147-1154.
Botulinum toxin is the etiologic agent responsible for the disease botulism, which is characterized by peripheral neuromuscular blockade. Botulism is ordinarily encountered as a form of oral poisoning. The toxin is absorbed from the lumen of the gut to reach the general circulation and is then distributed to peripheral cholinergic nerve endings. However, there is a widespread presumption that botulinum toxin can also act as an inhalation poison, which would require that it be absorbed from the airway. Experiments have been done to show that both pure toxin and progenitor toxin (a complex with auxiliary proteins) are inhalation poisons. Interestingly, the data indicate that auxiliary proteins are not necessary to protect the toxin or to facilitate its absorption. When studied on rat primary alveolar epithelial cells or on immortalized human pulmonary adenocarcinoma (Calu-3) cells, botulinum toxin displayed both specific binding and transcytosis. The rate of transport was greater in the apical-to-basolateral direction than in the basolateral-to-apical direction. Transcytosis was energy dependent, and it was blocked by serotype-specific antibody. The results demonstrated that the holotoxin was not essential for the process of binding and transcytosis. Both in vivo and in vitro experiments showed that the heavy-chain component of the toxin was transported across epithelial monolayers, which indicates that the structural determinants governing binding and transcytosis are found in this fragment. The heavy chain was not toxic, and therefore it was tested for utility as an inhalation vaccine against the parent molecule. This fragment was shown to evoke complete protection against toxin doses of at least 104 times the 50% lethal dose.
PMCID: PMC148837  PMID: 12595426
12.  Pure Botulinum Neurotoxin Is Absorbed from the Stomach and Small Intestine and Produces Peripheral Neuromuscular Blockade 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(9):4708-4712.
Clostridium botulinum serotype A produces a neurotoxin composed of a 100-kDa heavy chain and a 50-kDa light chain linked by a disulfide bond. This neurotoxin is part of a ca. 900-kDa complex, formed by noncovalent association with a single nontoxin, nonhemagglutinin subunit and a family of hemagglutinating proteins. Previous work has suggested, although never conclusively demonstrated, that neurotoxin alone cannot survive passage through the stomach and/or cannot be absorbed from the gut without the involvement of auxiliary proteins in the complex. Therefore, this study compared the relative absorption and toxicity of three preparations of neurotoxin in an in vivo mouse model. Equimolar amounts of serotype A complex with hemagglutinins, complex without hemagglutinins, and purified neurotoxin were surgically introduced into the stomach or into the small intestine. In some experiments, movement of neurotoxin from the site of administration was restricted by ligation of the pylorus. Comparison of relative toxicities demonstrated that at adequate doses, complex with hemagglutinins, complex without hemagglutinins, and pure neurotoxin can be absorbed from the stomach. The potency of neurotoxin in complex was greater than that of pure neurotoxin, but the magnitude of this difference diminished as the dosage of neurotoxin increased. Qualitatively similar results were obtained when complex with hemagglutinins, complex without hemagglutinins, and pure neurotoxin were placed directly into the intestine. This work establishes that pure botulinum neurotoxin serotype A is toxic when administered orally. This means that pure neurotoxin does not require hemagglutinins or other auxiliary proteins for absorption from the gastrointestinal system into the general circulation.
PMCID: PMC96798  PMID: 10456920
13.  Failure to Inhibit In Vitro or In Vivo Acetycholinesterase with Botulinum Toxin Type A 
Journal of Bacteriology  1969;97(2):571-575.
An attempt has been made to replicate an earlier finding that type A botulinum toxin can inhibit the in vitro activity of acetylcholinesterase. Two methods of enzyme assay were employed, but with neither technique were we able to reproduce the finding of in vitro enzyme inhibition. In fact, an examination of the data from the previous report leads us to question the possibility of the observations that were given. Furthermore, an investigation was carried out to determine if botulinum toxin can exert an inhibiting effect on acetylcholinesterase that is situated in the biological tissue. The answer again is negative. The experimental observations, coupled with several mathematical computations, do not support the notion that botulinum toxin is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.
PMCID: PMC249729  PMID: 5773011

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