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1.  Comparative genomic analyses reveal broad diversity in botulinum-toxin-producing Clostridia 
BMC Genomics  2016;17:180.
Background
Clostridium botulinum is a diverse group of bacteria characterized by the production of botulinum neurotoxin. Botulinum neurotoxins are classified into serotypes (BoNT/A–G), which are produced by six species/Groups of Clostridia, but the genetic background of the bacteria remains poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to use comparative genomics to provide insights into the genetic diversity and evolutionary history of bacteria that produce the potent botulinum neurotoxin.
Results
Comparative genomic analyses of over 170 Clostridia genomes, including our draft genome assemblies for 59 newly sequenced Clostridia strains from six continents and publicly available genomic data, provided in-depth insights into the diversity and distribution of BoNT-producing bacteria. These newly sequenced strains included Group I and II strains that express BoNT/A,/B,/E, or/F as well as bivalent strains. BoNT-producing Clostridia and closely related Clostridia species were delineated with a variety of methods including 16S rRNA gene, concatenated marker genes, core genome and concatenated multi-locus sequencing typing (MLST) gene phylogenies that related whole genome sequenced strains to publicly available strains and sequence types. These analyses illustrated the phylogenetic diversity in each Group and the diversity of genomic backgrounds that express the same toxin type or subtype. Comparisons of the botulinum neurotoxin genes did not identify novel toxin types or variants.
Conclusions
This study represents one of the most comprehensive analyses of whole genome sequence data for Group I and II BoNT-producing strains. Read data and draft genome assemblies generated for 59 isolates will be a resource to the research community. Core genome phylogenies proved to be a powerful tool for differentiating BoNT-producing strains and can provide a framework for the study of these bacteria. Comparative genomic analyses of Clostridia species illustrate the diversity of botulinum-neurotoxin-producing strains and the plasticity of the genomic backgrounds in which bont genes are found.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-016-2502-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12864-016-2502-z
PMCID: PMC4778365  PMID: 26939550
Clostridium botulinum; Botulinum neurotoxin; Whole genome sequence; Comparative genomics
2.  Monoclonal Antibodies that Inhibit the Proteolytic Activity of Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype/B 
Toxins  2015;7(9):3405-3423.
Existing antibodies (Abs) used to treat botulism cannot enter the cytosol of neurons and bind to botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) at its site of action, and thus cannot reverse paralysis. However, Abs targeting the proteolytic domain of the toxin could inhibit the proteolytic activity of the toxin intracellularly and potentially reverse intoxication, if they could be delivered intracellularly. As such, antibodies that neutralize toxin activity could serve as potent inhibitory cargos for therapeutic antitoxins against botulism. BoNT serotype B (BoNT/B) contains a zinc endopeptidase light chain (LC) domain that cleaves synaoptobrevin-2, a SNARE protein responsible for vesicle fusion and acetylcholine vesicle release. To generate monoclonal Abs (mAbs) that could reverse paralysis, we targeted the protease domain for Ab generation. Single-chain variable fragment (scFv) libraries from immunized mice or humans were displayed on yeast, and 19 unique BoNT/B LC-specific mAbs isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). The equilibrium dissociation constants (KD) of these mAbs for BoNT/B LC ranged from 0.24 nM to 14.3 nM (mean KD 3.27 nM). Eleven mAbs inhibited BoNT/B LC proteolytic activity. The fine epitopes of selected mAbs were identified by alanine-scanning mutagenesis, revealing that inhibitory mAbs bound near the active site, substrate-binding site or the extended substrate-binding site. The results provide mAbs that could prove useful for intracellular reversal of paralysis and identify epitopes that could be targeted by small molecules inhibitors.
doi:10.3390/toxins7093405
PMCID: PMC4591640  PMID: 26343720
botulinum antitoxin; inhibitory antibodies; Botulinum neurotoxin serotype B; alpha-exosite
3.  Monoclonal Antibodies Targeting the Alpha-Exosite of Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype/A Inhibit Catalytic Activity 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(8):e0135306.
The paralytic disease botulism is caused by botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT), multi-domain proteins containing a zinc endopeptidase that cleaves the cognate SNARE protein, thereby blocking acetylcholine neurotransmitter release. Antitoxins currently used to treat botulism neutralize circulating BoNT but cannot enter, bind to or neutralize BoNT that has already entered the neuron. The light chain endopeptidase domain (LC) of BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A) was targeted for generation of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that could reverse paralysis resulting from intoxication by BoNT/A. Single-chain variable fragment (scFv) libraries from immunized humans and mice were displayed on the surface of yeast, and 19 BoNT/A LC-specific mAbs were isolated by using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Affinities of the mAbs for BoNT/A LC ranged from a KD value of 9.0×10−11 M to 3.53×10−8 M (mean KD 5.38×10−9 M and median KD 1.53×10−9 M), as determined by flow cytometry analysis. Eleven mAbs inhibited BoNT/A LC catalytic activity with IC50 values ranging from 8.3 ~73×10−9 M. The fine epitopes of selected mAbs were also mapped by alanine-scanning mutagenesis, revealing that the inhibitory mAbs bound the α-exosite region remote from the BoNT/A LC catalytic center. The results provide mAbs that could prove useful for intracellular reversal of paralysis post-intoxication and further define epitopes that could be targeted by small molecule inhibitors.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135306
PMCID: PMC4537209  PMID: 26275214
4.  Clostridium botulinum strain Af84 produces three enzymatically active neurotoxins: BoNT/A2, BoNT/F4, and BoNT/F5 
Analytical chemistry  2014;86(7):3254-3262.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are produced by various species of clostridia and are potent neurotoxins which cause the disease botulism, by cleaving proteins needed for successful nerve transmission. There are currently seven confirmed serotypes of BoNTs, labeled A-G, and toxin-producing clostridia typically only produce one serotype of BoNT. There are a few strains (bivalent strains) which are known to produce more than one serotype of BoNT, producing either both BoNT/A and /B, BoNT/A and /F, or BoNT/B and /F; designated as Ab, Ba, Af, or Bf. Recently, it was reported that Clostridium botulinum strain Af84 has three neurotoxin gene clusters: bont/A2, bont/F4, and bont/F5. This was the first report of a clostridial organism containing more than two neurotoxin gene clusters. Using a mass spectrometry based proteomics approach, we report here that all three neurotoxins, BoNT/A2, /F4, and /F5, are produced by C. botulinum Af84. Label free MSE quantification of the three toxins indicated that toxin composition is 88% BoNT/A2, 1% BoNT/F4, and 11% BoNT/F5. The enzymatic activity of all three neurotoxins was assessed by examining the enzymatic activity of the neurotoxins upon peptide substrates which mimic the toxins’ natural targets and monitoring cleavage of the substrates by mass spectrometry. We determined that all three neurotoxins are enzymatically active. This is the first report of three enzymatically active neurotoxins produced in a single strain of Clostridium botulinum.
doi:10.1021/ac5001509
PMCID: PMC4522913  PMID: 24605815
5.   
Medical History  2015;59(3):488-490.
doi:10.1017/mdh.2015.32
PMCID: PMC4597238
6.  Fungal bis-Naphthopyrones as Inhibitors of Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype A 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2012;3(5):387-391.
An in silico screen of the NIH Molecular Library Small Molecule Repository (MLSMR) of ∼350000 compounds and confirmatory bioassays led to identification of chaetochromin A (1) as an inhibitor of botulinum neurotoxin serotype A (BoNT A). Subsequent acquisition and testing of analogues of 1 uncovered two compounds, talaroderxines A (2) and B (3), with improved activity. These are the first fungal metabolites reported to exhibit BoNT/A inhibitory activity.
doi:10.1021/ml200312s
PMCID: PMC4025784  PMID: 24900483
in silico screen; botulinum neurotoxin serotype A; natural products; chaetochromin; talaroderxine; binding free energy; thermodynamic integration
7.  Discovery of a Novel Enzymatic Cleavage Site for Botulinum Neurotoxin F5 
Febs Letters  2011;586(2):109-115.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) cause botulism by cleaving proteins necessary for nerve transmission. There are seven serotypes of BoNT, A-G, characterized by their response to antisera. Many serotypes are further distinguished into differing subtypes based on amino acid sequence some of which result in functional differences. Our laboratory previously reported that all tested subtypes within each serotype have the same site of enzymatic activity. Recently, three new subtypes of BoNT/F; /F3, /F4, and /F5, were reported. Here, we report that BoNT/F5 cleaves substrate synaptobrevin-2 in a different location than the other BoNT/F subtypes, between 54L and 55E. This is the first report of cleavage of synaptobrevin-2 in this location.
doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2011.11.033
PMCID: PMC3263758  PMID: 22172278
8.  Military vaccines in today’s environment 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2012;8(8):1126-1128.
The US military has a long and highly distinguished record of developing effective vaccines against pathogens that threaten the armed forces. Many of these vaccines have also been of significant benefit to civilian populations around the world. The current requirements for force protection include vaccines against endemic disease threats as well as against biological warfare or bioterrorism agents, to include novel or genetically engineered threats. The cost of vaccine development and the modern regulatory requirements for licensing vaccines have strained the ability of the program to maintain this broad mission. Without innovative vaccine technologies, streamlined regulatory strategies, and coordinating efforts for use in civilian populations where appropriate, the military vaccine development program is in jeopardy.
doi:10.4161/hv.20503
PMCID: PMC3551885  PMID: 22854669
vaccines; infectious diseases; military; biological warfare; bioterrorism
9.  Tyrosine Phosphorylation of Botulinum Neurotoxin Protease Domains 
Botulinum neurotoxins are most potent of all toxins. Their N-terminal light chain domain (Lc) translocates into peripheral cholinergic neurons to exert its endoproteolytic action leading to muscle paralysis. Therapeutic development against these toxins is a major challenge due to their in vitro and in vivo structural differences. Although three-dimensional structures and reaction mechanisms are very similar, the seven serotypes designated A through G vastly vary in their intracellular catalytic stability. To investigate if protein phosphorylation could account for this difference, we employed Src-catalyzed tyrosine phosphorylation of the Lc of six serotypes namely LcA, LcB, LcC1, LcD, LcE, and LcG. Very little phosphorylation was observed with LcD and LcE but LcA, LcB, and LcG were maximally phosphorylated by Src. Phosphorylation of LcA, LcB, and LcG did not affect their secondary and tertiary structures and thermostability significantly. Phosphorylation of Y250 and Y251 made LcA resistant to autocatalysis and drastically reduced its kcat/Km for catalysis. A tyrosine residue present near the essential cysteine at the C-terminal tail of LcA, LcB, and LcG was readily phosphorylated in vitro. Inclusion of a competitive inhibitor protected Y426 of LcA from phosphorylation, shedding light on the role of the C-terminus in the enzyme’s substrate or product binding.
doi:10.3389/fphar.2012.00102
PMCID: PMC3366388  PMID: 22675300
botulinum neurotoxin; tyrosine phosphorylation; zinc endoporotease; protease; clostridium botulinum; protein phosphorylation
10.  Analysis of Clostridium botulinum Serotype E Strains by Using Multilocus Sequence Typing, Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism, Variable-Number Tandem-Repeat Analysis, and Botulinum Neurotoxin Gene Sequencing▿ 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(24):8625-8634.
A total of 41 Clostridium botulinum serotype E strains from different geographic regions, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greenland, Japan, and the United States, were compared by multilocus sequence typing (MLST), amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis, variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) analysis, and botulinum neurotoxin (bont) E gene sequencing. The strains, representing environmental, food-borne, and infant botulism samples collected from 1932 to 2007, were analyzed to compare serotype E strains from different geographic regions and types of botulism and to determine whether each of the strains contained the transposon-associated recombinase rarA, involved with bont/E insertion. MLST examination using 15 genes clustered the strains into several clades, with most members within a cluster sharing the same BoNT/E subtype (BoNT/E1, E2, E3, or E6). Sequencing of the bont/E gene identified two new variants (E7, E8) that showed regions of recombination with other E subtypes. The AFLP dendrogram clustered the 41 strains similarly to the MLST dendrogram. Strains that could not be differentiated by AFLP, MLST, or bont gene sequencing were further examined using three VNTR regions. Both intact and split rarA genes were amplified by PCR in each of the strains, and their identities were confirmed in 11 strains by amplicon sequencing. The findings suggest that (i) the C. botulinum serotype E strains result from the targeted insertion of the bont/E gene into genetically conserved bacteria and (ii) recombination events (not random mutations) within bont/E result in toxin variants or subtypes within strains.
doi:10.1128/AEM.05155-11
PMCID: PMC3233090  PMID: 22003031
11.  Separation of Betti Reaction Product Enantiomers: Absolute Configuration and Inhibition of Botulinum Neurotoxin A 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2011;2(5):396-401.
The racemic product of the Betti reaction of 5-chloro-8-hydroxyquinoline, benzaldehyde, and 2-aminopyridine was separated by chiral HPLC to determine which enantiomer inhibited botulinum neurotoxin serotype A. When the enantiomers unexpectedly proved to have comparable activity, the absolute structures of (+)-(R)-1 and (−)-(S)-1 were determined by comparison of calculated and observed circular dichroism spectra. Molecular modeling studies were undertaken in an effort to understand the observed bioactivity and revealed different ensembles of binding modes, with roughly equal binding energies, for the two enantiomers.
doi:10.1021/ml200028z
PMCID: PMC3217201  PMID: 22102940
Chiral resolution; Betti reaction products; TDDFT CD calculations; molecular docking; inhibition of botulinum neurotoxin
12.  The Need for Continued Development of Ricin Countermeasures 
Ricin toxin, an extremely potent and heat-stable toxin produced from the bean of the ubiquitous Ricinus communis (castor bean plant), has been categorized by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a category B biothreat agent that is moderately easy to disseminate. Ricin has the potential to be used as an agent of biological warfare and bioterrorism. Therefore, there is a critical need for continued development of ricin countermeasures. A safe and effective prophylactic vaccine against ricin that was FDA approved for “at risk” individuals would be an important first step in assuring the availability of medical countermeasures against ricin.
doi:10.1155/2012/149737
PMCID: PMC3318197  PMID: 22536516
13.  Separation of Betti Reaction Product Enantiomers: Absolute Configuration and Inhibition of Botulinum Neurotoxin A 
ACS medicinal chemistry letters  2011;2(5):396-401.
The racemic product of the Betti reaction of 5-chloro-8-hydroxyquinoline, benzaldehyde and 2-aminopyridine was separated by chiral HPLC to determine which enantiomer inhibited botulinum neurotoxin serotype A. When the enantiomers unexpectedly proved to have comparable activity, the absolute structures of (+)-(R)-1 and (−)-(S)-1 were determined by comparison of calculated and observed circular dichroism spectra. Molecular modeling studies were undertaken in an effort to understand the observed bioactivity and revealed different ensembles of binding modes, with roughly equal binding energies, for the two enantiomers.
doi:10.1021/ml200028z
PMCID: PMC3217201  PMID: 22102940
chiral resolution; Betti reaction products; TDDFT CD calculations; molecular docking; inhibition of botulinum neurotoxin
14.  De novo subtype and strain identification of botulinum neurotoxin type B through toxin proteomics 
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) cause the disease botulism, which can be lethal if untreated. There are seven known serotypes of BoNT, A–G, defined by their response to antisera. Many serotypes are distinguished into differing subtypes based on amino acid sequence, and many subtypes are further differentiated into toxin variants. Previous work in our laboratory described the use of a proteomics approach to distinguish subtype BoNT/A1 from BoNT/A2 where BoNT identities were confirmed after searching data against a database containing protein sequences of all known BoNT/A subtypes. We now describe here a similar approach to differentiate subtypes BoNT/B1, /B2, /B3, /B4, and /B5. Additionally, to identify new subtypes or hitherto unpublished amino acid substitutions, we created an amino acid substitution database covering every possible amino acid change. We used this database to differentiate multiple toxin variants within subtypes of BoNT/B1 and B2. More importantly, with our amino acid substitution database, we were able to identify a novel BoNT/B subtype, designated here as BoNT/B7. These techniques allow for subtype and strain level identification of both known and unknown BoNT/B rapidly with no DNA required.
FigureIdentification of an existing or new BoNT/B can be accomplished through MS/MS analysis of digestion fragments of the protein.
doi:10.1007/s00216-012-5767-3
PMCID: PMC3309144  PMID: 22395449
Botulinum neurotoxin; Botulism; Mass spectrometry; Proteomics
15.  A Novel Strategy for Development of Recombinant Antitoxin Therapeutics Tested in a Mouse Botulism Model 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29941.
Antitoxins are needed that can be produced economically with improved safety and shelf life compared to conventional antisera-based therapeutics. Here we report a practical strategy for development of simple antitoxin therapeutics with substantial advantages over currently available treatments. The therapeutic strategy employs a single recombinant ‘targeting agent’ that binds a toxin at two unique sites and a ‘clearing Ab’ that binds two epitopes present on each targeting agent. Co-administration of the targeting agent and the clearing Ab results in decoration of the toxin with up to four Abs to promote accelerated clearance. The therapeutic strategy was applied to two Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) serotypes and protected mice from lethality in two different intoxication models with an efficacy equivalent to conventional antitoxin serum. Targeting agents were a single recombinant protein consisting of a heterodimer of two camelid anti-BoNT heavy-chain-only Ab VH (VHH) binding domains and two E-tag epitopes. The clearing mAb was an anti-E-tag mAb. By comparing the in vivo efficacy of treatments that employed neutralizing vs. non-neutralizing agents or the presence vs. absence of clearing Ab permitted unprecedented insight into the roles of toxin neutralization and clearance in antitoxin efficacy. Surprisingly, when a post-intoxication treatment model was used, a toxin-neutralizing heterodimer agent fully protected mice from intoxication even in the absence of clearing Ab. Thus a single, easy-to-produce recombinant protein was as efficacious as polyclonal antiserum in a clinically-relevant mouse model of botulism. This strategy should have widespread application in antitoxin development and other therapies in which neutralization and/or accelerated clearance of a serum biomolecule can offer therapeutic benefit.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029941
PMCID: PMC3253120  PMID: 22238680
16.  Extraction and inhibition of enzymatic activity of botulinum neurotoxins /B1, /B2, /B3, /B4, and /B5 by a panel of monoclonal anti-BoNT/B antibodies 
BMC Biochemistry  2011;12:58.
Background
Botulism is caused by botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), extremely toxic proteins which can induce respiratory failure leading to long-term intensive care or death. Treatment for botulism includes administration of antitoxins, which must be administered early in the course of the intoxication; therefore, rapid determination of human exposure to BoNT is an important public health goal. In previous work, our laboratory reported on Endopep-MS, a mass spectrometry-based activity method for detecting and differentiating BoNT/A, /B, /E, and /F in clinical samples. We also demonstrated that antibody-capture is effective for purification and concentration of BoNTs from complex matrices such as clinical samples. However, some antibodies inhibit or neutralize the enzymatic activity of BoNT, so the choice of antibody for toxin extraction is critical.
Results
In this work, we evaluated 24 anti-BoNT/B monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for their ability to inhibit the in vitro activity of BoNT/B1, /B2, /B3, /B4, and /B5 and to extract those toxins. Among the mAbs, there were significant differences in ability to extract BoNT/B subtypes and inhibitory effect on BoNT catalytic activity. Some of the mAbs tested enhanced the in vitro light chain activity of BoNT/B, suggesting that BoNT/B may undergo conformational change upon binding some mAbs.
Conclusions
In addition to determining in vitro inhibition abilities of a panel of mAbs against BoNT/B1-/B5, this work has determined B12.2 and 2B18.2 to be the best mAbs for sample preparation before Endopep-MS. These mAb characterizations also have the potential to assist with mechanistic studies of BoNT/B protection and treatment, which is important for studying alternative therapeutics for botulism.
doi:10.1186/1471-2091-12-58
PMCID: PMC3250939  PMID: 22085466
17.  Different Substrate Recognition Requirements for Cleavage of Synaptobrevin-2 by Clostridium baratii and Clostridium botulinum Type F Neurotoxins▿  
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) cause botulism, which can be fatal if it is untreated. BoNTs cleave proteins necessary for nerve transmission, resulting in paralysis. The in vivo protein target has been reported for all seven serotypes of BoNT, i.e., serotypes A to G. Knowledge of the cleavage sites has led to the development of several assays to detect BoNT based on its ability to cleave a peptide substrate derived from its in vivo protein target. Most serotypes of BoNT can be subdivided into subtypes, and previously, we demonstrated that three of the currently known subtypes of BoNT/F cleave a peptide substrate, a shortened version of synaptobrevin-2, between Q58 and K59. However, our research indicated that Clostridium baratii type F toxin did not cleave this peptide. In this study, we detail experiments demonstrating that Clostridium baratii type F toxin cleaves recombinant synaptobrevin-2 in the same location as that cleaved by proteolytic F toxin. In addition, we demonstrate that Clostridium baratii type F toxin can cleave a peptide substrate based on the sequence of synaptobrevin-2. This peptide substrate is an N-terminal extension of the original peptide substrate used for detection of other BoNT/F toxins and can be used to detect four of the currently known BoNT/F subtypes by mass spectrometry.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01662-10
PMCID: PMC3067225  PMID: 21169446
18.  Light Chain Separated from the Rest of the Type A Botulinum Neurotoxin Molecule Is the Most Catalytically Active Form 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12872.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are the most potent of all toxins. The 50 kDa N-terminal endopeptidase catalytic light chain (LC) of BoNT is located next to its central, putative translocation domain. After binding to the peripheral neurons, the central domain of BoNT helps the LC translocate into cytosol where its proteolytic action on SNARE (soluble NSF attachment protein receptor) proteins blocks exocytosis of acetyl choline leading to muscle paralysis and eventual death. The translocation domain also contains 105 Å -long stretch of ∼100 residues, known as “belt,” that crosses over and wraps around the LC to shield the active site from solvent. It is not known if the LC gets dissociated from the rest of the molecule in the cytosol before catalysis. To investigate the structural identity of the protease, we prepared four variants of type A BoNT (BoNT/A) LC, and compared their catalytic parameters with those of BoNT/A whole toxin. The four variants were LC + translocation domain, a trypsin-nicked LC + translocation domain, LC + belt, and a free LC. Our results showed that Km for a 17-residue SNAP-25 (synaptosomal associated protein of 25 kDa) peptide for these constructs was not very different, but the turnover number (kcat) for the free LC was 6-100-fold higher than those of its four variants. Moreover, none of the four variants of the LC was prone to autocatalysis. Our results clearly demonstrated that in vitro, the LC minus the rest of the molecule is the most catalytically active form. The results may have implication as to the identity of the active, toxic moiety of BoNT/A in vivo.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012872
PMCID: PMC2943925  PMID: 20877571
19.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012237
PMCID: PMC2923190  PMID: 20808925
20.  Nutraceutical augmentation of circulating endothelial progenitor cells and hematopoietic stem cells in human subjects 
The medical significance of circulating endothelial or hematopoietic progenitors is becoming increasing recognized. While therapeutic augmentation of circulating progenitor cells using G-CSF has resulted in promising preclinical and early clinical data for several degenerative conditions, this approach is limited by cost and inability to perform chronic administration. Stem-Kine is a food supplement that was previously reported to augment circulating EPC in a pilot study. Here we report a trial in 18 healthy volunteers administered Stem-Kine twice daily for a 2 week period. Significant increases in circulating CD133 and CD34 cells were observed at days 1, 2, 7, and 14 subsequent to initiation of administration, which correlated with increased hematopoietic progenitors as detected by the HALO assay. Augmentation of EPC numbers in circulation was detected by KDR-1/CD34 staining and colony forming assays. These data suggest Stem-Kine supplementation may be useful as a stimulator of reparative processes associated with mobilization of hematopoietic and endothelial progenitors.
doi:10.1186/1479-5876-8-34
PMCID: PMC2862021  PMID: 20377846
21.  Circulating endothelial progenitor cells: a new approach to anti-aging medicine? 
Endothelial dysfunction is associated with major causes of morbidity and mortality, as well as numerous age-related conditions. The possibility of preserving or even rejuvenating endothelial function offers a potent means of preventing/treating some of the most fearful aspects of aging such as loss of mental, cardiovascular, and sexual function.
Endothelial precursor cells (EPC) provide a continual source of replenishment for damaged or senescent blood vessels. In this review we discuss the biological relevance of circulating EPC in a variety of pathologies in order to build the case that these cells act as an endogenous mechanism of regeneration. Factors controlling EPC mobilization, migration, and function, as well as therapeutic interventions based on mobilization of EPC will be reviewed. We conclude by discussing several clinically-relevant approaches to EPC mobilization and provide preliminary data on a food supplement, Stem-Kine, which enhanced EPC mobilization in human subjects.
doi:10.1186/1479-5876-7-106
PMCID: PMC2804590  PMID: 20003528
22.  Recombination and insertion events involving the botulinum neurotoxin complex genes in Clostridium botulinum types A, B, E and F and Clostridium butyricum type E strains 
BMC Biology  2009;7:66.
Background
Clostridium botulinum is a taxonomic designation for at least four diverse species that are defined by the expression of one (monovalent) or two (bivalent) of seven different C. botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs, A-G). The four species have been classified as C. botulinum Groups I-IV. The presence of bont genes in strains representing the different Groups is probably the result of horizontal transfer of the toxin operons between the species.
Results
Chromosome and plasmid sequences of several C. botulinum strains representing A, B, E and F serotypes and a C. butyricum type E strain were compared to examine their genomic organization, or synteny, and the location of the botulinum toxin complex genes. These comparisons identified synteny among proteolytic (Group I) strains or nonproteolytic (Group II) strains but not between the two Groups. The bont complex genes within the strains examined were not randomly located but found within three regions of the chromosome or in two specific sites within plasmids. A comparison of sequences from a Bf strain revealed homology to the plasmid pCLJ with similar locations for the bont/bv b genes but with the bont/a4 gene replaced by the bont/f gene. An analysis of the toxin cluster genes showed that many recombination events have occurred, including several events within the ntnh gene. One such recombination event resulted in the integration of the bont/a1 gene into the serotype toxin B ha cluster, resulting in a successful lineage commonly associated with food borne botulism outbreaks. In C. botulinum type E and C. butyricum type E strains the location of the bont/e gene cluster appears to be the result of insertion events that split a rarA, recombination-associated gene, independently at the same location in both species.
Conclusion
The analysis of the genomic sequences representing different strains reveals the presence of insertion sequence (IS) elements and other transposon-associated proteins such as recombinases that could facilitate the horizontal transfer of the bonts; these events, in addition to recombination among the toxin complex genes, have led to the lineages observed today within the neurotoxin-producing clostridia.
doi:10.1186/1741-7007-7-66
PMCID: PMC2764570  PMID: 19804621
23.  Identification and Biochemical Characterization of Small-Molecule Inhibitors of Clostridium botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype A▿ §  
An integrated strategy that combined in silico screening and tiered biochemical assays (enzymatic, in vitro, and ex vivo) was used to identify and characterize effective small-molecule inhibitors of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin serotype A (BoNT/A). Virtual screening was initially performed by computationally docking compounds of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) database into the active site of BoNT/A light chain (LC). A total of 100 high-scoring compounds were evaluated in a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-based protease assay using recombinant full-length BoNT/A LC. Seven compounds that significantly inhibited the BoNT/A protease activity were selected. Database search queries of the best candidate hit [7-((4-nitro-anilino)(phenyl)methyl)-8-quinolinol (NSC 1010)] were performed to mine its nontoxic analogs. Fifty-five analogs of NSC 1010 were synthesized and examined by the HPLC-based assay. Of these, five quinolinol derivatives that potently inhibited both full-length BoNT/A LC and truncated BoNT/A LC (residues 1 to 425) were selected for further inhibition studies in neuroblastoma (N2a) cell-based and tissue-based mouse phrenic nerve hemidiaphragm assays. Consistent with enzymatic assays, in vitro and ex vivo studies revealed that these five quinolinol-based analogs effectively neutralized BoNT/A toxicity, with CB 7969312 exhibiting ex vivo protection at 0.5 μM. To date, this is the most potent BoNT/A small-molecule inhibitor that showed activity in an ex vivo assay. The reduced toxicity and high potency demonstrated by these five compounds at the biochemical, cellular, and tissue levels are distinctive among the BoNT/A small-molecule inhibitors reported thus far. This study demonstrates the utility of a multidisciplinary approach (in silico screening coupled with biochemical testing) for identifying promising small-molecule BoNT/A inhibitors.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00141-09
PMCID: PMC2715594  PMID: 19528275
24.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005355
PMCID: PMC2670495  PMID: 19399171
25.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2007.08.035
PMCID: PMC2077857  PMID: 17897756
Botulism Vaccine; Protective immunity; Replication-incompetent adenovirus

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