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Enhancing toxin-based vaccines against botulism

Przedpelski, Amanda, Tepp, William H., Zuverink, Madison, Johnson, Eric A., Pellet, Sabine, Barbieri, Joseph T.
Vaccine 2018 v.36 no.6 pp. 827-832
animal models, antibodies, bioassays, bioengineering, botulinum toxin, botulism, catalytic activity, gangliosides, humans, hydrogen cyanide, immune response, lethal dose 50, mice, mutation, neurons, neutralization, proteins, recombinant vaccines, vaccination
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are the most toxic proteins for humans. BoNTs are single chain proteins with an N-terminal light chain (LC) and a C-terminal heavy chain (HC). HC comprises a translocation domain (HCN) and a receptor binding domain (HCC). Currently, there are no approved vaccines against botulism. This study tests a recombinant, full-length BoNT/A1 versus LCHCN/A1 and HCC/A1 as vaccine candidates against botulism. Recombinant, full-length BoNT/A1 was detoxified by engineering 3-amino acid mutations (E224A/R363A/Y366F) (M-BoNT/A1) into the LC to eliminate catalytic activity, which reduced toxicity in a mouse model of botulism by >106-fold relative to native BoNT/A1. As a second step to improve vaccine safety, an additional mutation (W1266A) was engineered in the ganglioside binding pocket, resulting in reduced receptor binding, to produce M-BoNT/A1W. M-BoNT/A1W vaccination protected against challenge by 106 LD50 Units of native BoNT/A1, while M-BoNT/A1 or M-BoNT/A1W vaccination equally protected against challenge by native BoNT/A2, a BoNT subtype. Mice vaccinated with M-BoNT/A1W surviving BoNT challenge had dominant antibody responses to the LCHCN domain, but varied antibody responses to HCC. Sera from mice vaccinated with M-BoNT/A1W also neutralized BoNT/A1 action on cultured neuronal cells. The cell- and mouse-based assays measured different BoNT-neutralizing antibodies, where M-BoNT/A1W elicited a strong neutralizing response in both assays. Overall, M-BoNT/A1W, with defects in multiple toxin functions, elicits a potent immune response to BoNT/A challenge as a vaccine strategy against botulism and other toxin-mediated diseases.