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1.  Stochastic humoral immunity to Bacillus anthracis Protective Antigen: Identification of anti-peptide IgG correlating with seroconversion to Lethal Toxin neutralization 
Vaccine  2013;31(14):1856-1863.
A substantial fraction of individuals vaccinated against anthrax have low to immeasurable levels of serum Lethal Toxin (LeTx)-neutralizing activity. The only known correlate of protection against Bacillus anthracis in the currently licensed vaccine is magnitude of the IgG response to Protective Antigen (PA); however, some individuals producing high serum levels of anti-PA IgG fail to neutralize LeTx in vitro. This suggests that non-protective humoral responses to PA may be immunodominant in some individuals. Therefore, to better understand why anthrax vaccination elicits heterogeneous levels of protection, this study was designed to elucidate the relationship between anti-PA fine specificity and LeTx neutralization in response to PA vaccination. Inbred mice immunized with recombinant PA produced high levels of anti-PA IgG and neutralized LeTx in vitro and in vivo. Decapeptide binding studies using pooled sera reproducibly identified the same 9 epitopes. Unexpectedly, sera from individual mice revealed substantial heterogeneity in the anti-PA IgG and LeTx neutralization responses, despite relative genetic homogeneity, shared environment and exposure to the same immunogen. This heterogeneity permitted the identification of specificities that correlate with LeTx-neutralizing activity. IgG binding to six decapeptides comprising two PA epitopes, located in domains I and IV, significantly correlate with seroconversion to LeTx neutralization. These results indicate that stochastic variation in humoral immunity is likely to be a major contributor to the general problem of heterogeneity in vaccine responsiveness and suggest that vaccine effectiveness could be improved by approaches that focus the humoral response toward protective epitopes in a greater fraction of vaccinees.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.01.040
PMCID: PMC3614092  PMID: 23415781
Bacillus anthracis; Protective antigen; Vaccine; B cell epitope; Mice
2.  MHC Class II and Non-MHC Class II Genes Differentially Influence Humoral Immunity to Bacillus anthracis Lethal Factor and Protective Antigen 
Toxins  2012;4(12):1451-1467.
Anthrax Lethal Toxin consists of Protective Antigen (PA) and Lethal Factor (LF), and current vaccination strategies focus on eliciting antibodies to PA. In human vaccination, the response to PA can vary greatly, and the response is often directed toward non-neutralizing epitopes. Variable vaccine responses have been shown to be due in part to genetic differences in individuals, with both MHC class II and other genes playing roles. Here, we investigated the relative contribution of MHC class II versus non-MHC class II genes in the humoral response to PA and LF immunization using three immunized strains of inbred mice: A/J (H-2k at the MHC class II locus), B6 (H-2b), and B6.H2k (H-2k). IgG antibody titers to LF were controlled primarily by the MHC class II locus, whereas IgG titers to PA were strongly influenced by the non-MHC class II genetic background. Conversely, the humoral fine specificity of reactivity to LF appeared to be controlled primarily through non-MHC class II genes, while the specificity of reactivity to PA was more dependent on MHC class II. Common epitopes, reactive in all strains, occurred in both LF and PA responses. These results demonstrate that MHC class II differentially influences humoral immune responses to LF and PA.
doi:10.3390/toxins4121451
PMCID: PMC3528256  PMID: 23342680
Bacillus anthracis; protective antigen; lethal factor; vaccine; antibody response; MHC class II; mouse; genetic background
3.  Anthrax Lethal Toxin-Induced Gene Expression Changes in Mouse Lung 
Toxins  2011;3(9):1111-1130.
A major virulence factor of Bacillus anthracis is the anthrax Lethal Toxin (LeTx), a bipartite toxin composed of Protective Antigen and Lethal Factor. Systemic administration of LeTx to laboratory animals leads to death associated with vascular leakage and pulmonary edema. In this study, we investigated whether systemic exposure of mice to LeTx would induce gene expression changes associated with vascular/capillary leakage in lung tissue. We observed enhanced susceptibility of A/J mice to death by systemic LeTx administration compared to the C57BL/6 strain. LeTx-induced groups of both up- and down-regulated genes were observed in mouse lungs 6 h after systemic administration of wild type toxin compared to lungs of mice exposed to an inactive mutant form of the toxin. Lungs of the less susceptible C57BL/6 strain showed 80% fewer differentially expressed genes compared to lungs of the more sensitive A/J strain. Expression of genes known to regulate vascular permeability was modulated by LeTx in the lungs of the more susceptible A/J strain. Unexpectedly, the largest set of genes with altered expression was immune specific, characterized by the up-regulation of lymphoid genes and the down-regulation of myeloid genes. Transcripts encoding neutrophil chemoattractants, modulators of tumor regulation and angiogenesis were also differentially expressed in both mouse strains. These studies provide new directions for the investigation of vascular leakage and pulmonary edema induced by anthrax LeTx.
doi:10.3390/toxins3091111
PMCID: PMC3202878  PMID: 22039574
Lethal Toxin; lung; gene expression
4.  Anthrax Lethal Toxin-Induced Gene Expression Changes in Mouse Lung 
Toxins  2011;3(9):1111-1130.
A major virulence factor of Bacillus anthracis is the anthrax Lethal Toxin (LeTx), a bipartite toxin composed of Protective Antigen and Lethal Factor. Systemic administration of LeTx to laboratory animals leads to death associated with vascular leakage and pulmonary edema. In this study, we investigated whether systemic exposure of mice to LeTx would induce gene expression changes associated with vascular/capillary leakage in lung tissue. We observed enhanced susceptibility of A/J mice to death by systemic LeTx administration compared to the C57BL/6 strain. LeTx-induced groups of both up- and down-regulated genes were observed in mouse lungs 6 h after systemic administration of wild type toxin compared to lungs of mice exposed to an inactive mutant form of the toxin. Lungs of the less susceptible C57BL/6 strain showed 80% fewer differentially expressed genes compared to lungs of the more sensitive A/J strain. Expression of genes known to regulate vascular permeability was modulated by LeTx in the lungs of the more susceptible A/J strain. Unexpectedly, the largest set of genes with altered expression was immune specific, characterized by the up-regulation of lymphoid genes and the down-regulation of myeloid genes. Transcripts encoding neutrophil chemoattractants, modulators of tumor regulation and angiogenesis were also differentially expressed in both mouse strains. These studies provide new directions for the investigation of vascular leakage and pulmonary edema induced by anthrax LeTx.
doi:10.3390/toxins3091111
PMCID: PMC3202878  PMID: 22039574
Lethal Toxin; lung; gene expression

Results 1-4 (4)