Abrin is a heterodimeric toxin present in the seeds of the Abrus precatorius plant. The easily obtainable seeds can yield a highly toxic product that can be used in various types of biocrimes and terrorism-related activities, including "white-powder" letters. Although the vast majority of these threats are hoaxes, the lack of rapid and reliable detection assays for abrin, such as lateral flow assays (LFAs), can be an impediment to accurate and rapid hazard assessment. One of the complicating factors associated with LFAs is the use of antibodies of poor affinity and specificity that cross-react with near neighbors or that bind to plant lectins, which are capable of nonspecifically cross-linking the capture and detector antibodies. Because of the critical need to promote public safety and public health, we conducted a comprehensive laboratory evaluation of a commercial LFA for the rapid detection of abrin. This study was conducted using comprehensive inclusivity and exclusivity panels of abrin and near-neighbor plant materials, along with panels of lectins, related proteins, white powders, and environmental background material, to determine the sensitivity, specificity, limit of detection, dynamic range, and repeatability of the assay for the specific intended use of evaluating suspicious white powders and environmental samples for the presumptive presence of abrin.
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) are a group of common and potentially deadly intestinal pathogens expressing Shiga toxin (Stx) as a primary virulence factor. Of the two types of Stx, Stx2 is responsible for more severe symptoms during infection, while Stx1 is almost identical to the Shiga toxin from Shigella dysenteriae, a ubiquitous pathogen in developing countries. Although antibodies against Stx1 have been reported, few have reached the affinity needed for assembling highly sensitive immunoassays. Sensitive and affordable immunoassays for Stx1 and Stx2 could help improve detection of STEC in livestock, food, the environment, and in clinical samples resulting in improved food safety and human health.
The aim of this study was to examine two benzo analogs, octylgallate (OG) and veratraldehyde (VT), as antifungal agents against strains of Aspergillus parasiticus and A.flavus (toxigenic or atoxigenic). Both toxigenic and atoxigenic strains used were capable of producing kojic acid, another cellular secondary product. A. fumigatus was used as a genetic model for this study. When applied independently, OG exhibits considerably higher antifungal activity compared to VT. The minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of OG were 0.3-0.5 mM, while that of VT were 3.0-5.0 mM in agar plate-bioassays. OG or VT in concert with the fungicide kresoxim methyl (Kre-Me; strobilurin) greatly enhanced sensitivity of Aspergillus strains to Kre-Me. The combination with OG also overcame the tolerance of A. fumigatus mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) mutants to Kre-Me. The degree of compound interaction resulting from chemosensitization of the fungi by OG was determined using checkerboard bioassays, where synergistic activity greatly lowered MICs or minimum fungicidal concentrations. However, the control chemosensitizer benzohydroxamic acid, an alternative oxidase inhibitor conventionally applied in concert with strobilurin, did not achieve synergism. The level of antifungal or chemosensitizing activity was also "compound-strain" specific, indicating differential susceptibility of tested strains to OG or VT, and/or heat stress. Besides targeting the antioxidant system, OG also negatively affected the cell wall-integrity pathway, as determined by the inhibition of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell wall-integrity MAPK pathway mutants. We concluded that certain benzo analogs effectively inhibit fungal growth. They possess chemosensitizing capability to increase efficacy of Kre-Me and thus, could reduce effective dosages of strobilurins and alleviate negative side effects associated with current antifungal practices. OG also exhibits moderate antiaflatoxigenic activity.
We have previously described genetic constructs and expression systems that enable facile production of recombinant derivatives of botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) that retain the structural and trafficking properties of wt BoNTs. In this report we describe the properties of one such derivative, BoNT/A ad, which was rendered atoxic by introducing two amino acid mutations to the light chain (LC) of wt BoNT/A, and which is being developed as a molecular vehicle for delivering drugs to the neuronal cytoplasm. The neuronal binding, internalization, and intracellular trafficking of BoNT/A ad in primary hippocampal cultures was evaluated using three complimentary techniques: flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, and Western blotting. Neuronal binding of BoNT ad was significantly increased when neurons were incubated in depolarizing medium. Flow cytometry demonstrated that BoNT/A ad internalized into neurons but not glia. After 24 hours, the majority of the neuron-bound BoNT/A ad became internalized, as determined by its resistance to pronase E-induced proteolytic degradation of proteins associated with the plasma membrane of intact cells. Significant amounts of the atoxic LC accumulated in a Triton X-100-extractable fraction of the neurons, and persisted as such for at least 11 days with no evidence of degradation. Immunocytochemical analysis demonstrated that the LC of BoNT/A ad was translocated to the neuronal cytoplasm after uptake and was specifically targeted to SNARE proteins. The atoxic LC consistently co-localized with synaptic markers SNAP-25 and VAMP-2, but was rarely co-localized with markers for early or late endosomes. These data demonstrate that BoNT/A ad mimics the trafficking properties of wt BoNT/A, confirming that our platform for designing and expressing BoNT derivatives provides an accessible system for elucidating the molecular details of BoNT trafficking, and can potentially be used to address multiple medical and biodefense needs.
Ricin, a heterodimeric toxin that is present in the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant, is the biothreat agent most frequently encountered by law enforcement agencies in the United States. Even in untrained hands, the easily obtainable seeds can yield a highly toxic product that has been used in various types of threats, including "white-powder" letters. Although the vast majority of these threats are hoaxes, an impediment to accurate hazard assessments by first responders is the unreliability of rapid detection assays for ricin, such as lateral flow assays (LFAs). One of the complicating factors associated with LFAs is the incorporation of antibodies of poor specificity that cross-react with near-neighbors or with plant lectins that are capable of nonspecifically cross-linking the capture and detector antibodies. Because of the compelling and critical need to promote the interests of public safety and public health, the Department of Homeland Security conducted a comprehensive laboratory evaluation study of a commercial LFA for the rapid detection of ricin. This study was conducted using comprehensive inclusivity and exclusivity panels of ricin and near-neighbor plant materials, along with panels of lectins and "white-powders," to determine the specificity, sensitivity, limits of detection, dynamic range, and repeatability of the assay for the specific intended use of evaluating suspicious white powders and environmental samples in the field.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) food contaminations pose serious health concerns, and have been the subject of massive food recalls. STEC has been identified as the major cause of the life-threatening complication of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Besides supportive care, there currently are no therapeutics available. The use of antibiotics for combating pathogenic E. coli is not recommended because they have been shown to stimulate toxin production. Clearing Stx2 from the circulation could potentially lessen disease severity. In this study, we tested the in vivo neutralization of Stx2 in mice using monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). We measured the biologic half-life of Stx2 in mice and determined the distribution phase or t(1/2) ? to be 3 min and the clearance phase or t(1/2) ? to be 40 min. Neutralizing mAbs were capable of clearing Stx2 completely from intoxicated mouse blood within minutes. We also examined the persistence of these mAbs over time and showed that complete protection could be passively conferred to mice 4 weeks before exposure to Stx2. The advent of better diagnositic methods and the availability of a greater arsenal of therapeutic mAbs against Stx2 would greatly enhance treatment outcomes of life threatening E. coli infections.
Botulism is a serious foodborne neuroparalytic disease, caused by botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT), produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Seven toxin serotypes (A-H) have been described. The majority of human cases of botulism are caused by serotypes A and B followed by E and F. We report here a group of serotype B specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) capable of binding toxin under physiological conditions. Thus, they serve as capture antibodies for a sandwich (capture) ELISA. The antibodies were generated using recombinant peptide fragments corresponding to the receptor-binding domain of the toxin heavy chain as immunogen. Their binding properties suggest that they bind a complex epitope with dissociation constants (KDs) for individual antibodies ranging from 10 to 48 × 10-11 M. Assay performance for all possible combinations of capture-detector antibody pairs was evaluated and the antibody pair resulting in the lowest level of detection (L.O.D.), ~20 pg/mL was determined. Toxin was detected in spiked dairy samples with good recoveries at concentrations as low as 0.5 pg/mL and in ground beef samples at levels as low as 2 ng/g. Thus, the sandwich ELISA described here uses mAb for both the capture and detector antibodies (binding different epitopes on the toxin molecule) and readily detects toxin in those food samples tested.
Botulinum neurotoxins are produced as a toxin complex (TC) which consists of neurotoxin (NT) and neurotoxin associated proteins. The characterization of NT in its native state is an essential step for developing diagnostics and therapeutic countermeasures against botulism. The presence of NT genes was validated by PCR amplification of toxin specific fragments from genomic DNA of Clostridium botulinum strain PS-5 which indicated the presence of both serotype A and B genes on PS-5 genome. Further, TC was purified and characterized by Western blotting, Digoxin-enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, endopeptidase activity assay, and Liquid chromatography-Mass spectrometry. The data showed the presence of serotype A specific neurotoxin. Based on the analysis of neurotoxin genes and characterization of TC, PS-5 strain appears as a serotype A (B) strain of C. botulinum which produces only serotype A specific TC in the cell culture medium.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are produced by Clostridium botulinum and cause severe neuroparalytic disease that if not treated quickly is often fatal. The toxin is produced as a 150?kDa precursor protein (holotoxin) that is enzymatically cleaved to form two subunits, heavy and light chains, linked by a single disulfide bond. Seven toxin serotypes are known. BoNT serotypes A1 and B1 are secreted as precursor toxic complexes (PTC) containing of the toxin and non-toxic associated proteins (NAPs) consisting of non-toxic hemagglutinin proteins (HA), designated HA17, HA34, and HA70, and a 120?kDa non-toxin non-hemagglutinin (NTNH) protein. The exact contribution of the NAPs in disease is not known, but it is thought that they protect the toxin as it passes through the harsh environment of the stomach. The structure of the complex is also poorly understood, although recent models suggest that for each molecule of toxin the PTC contains one molecule of the NTNH and multiple copies of each HA. In this paper we describe six monoclonal antibodies that specifically bind the HA70 protein found in the PTC of BoNT/A1 and /B1. Based on these antibodies, we demonstrate a rapid sandwich ELISA assay for detecting HA70.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are some of the most potent biological toxins. High-affinity monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have been developed for the detection of BoNT serotypes A and B using a chemiluminescent capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In an effort to improve toxin detection levels in complex matrices such as food and sera, we evaluated the performance of existing antitoxin mAbs using a new electrochemiluminescence (ECL) immunoassay platform developed by Meso Scale Discovery. In side-by-side comparisons, the limits of detection (LODs) observed for ELISA and the ECL immunoassay for BoNT/A were 12 and 3 pg/mL, and for BoNT/B, they were 17 and 13 pg/mL, respectively. Both the ELISA and the ECL method were more sensitive than the "gold standard" mouse bioassay. The ECL assay outperformed ELISA in detection sensitivity in most of the food matrices fortified with BoNT/A and in some foods spiked with BoNT/B. Both the ELISA and the ECL immunoassay platforms are fast, simple alternatives for use in the routine detection of BoNTs in food and animal sera.
Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2) is a major virulence factor in gastrointestinal diseases caused by Escherichia coli. Although Stx2a (prototypical Stx2) is well-studied, all seven subtypes of Stx2 have been associated with disease in mammals. Several subtypes of Stx2, including Stx2f, are difficult to detect immunologically.
The enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) is a rapid, high-throughput, quantitative immunoassay for the selective detection of target antigens. The general principle behind an ELISA is antibody mediated capture and detection of an antigen with a measurable substrate. Numerous incarnations of the ELISA have resulted in its commercialization for sensitive diagnostic applications using a variety of detection platforms. Many of these applications require a pair of antibodies necessary for the capture and detection of a specific antigen (cELISA) in defined substrates. However, the availability of cELISA for target antigens is limited and thus restricts the use of this technique for quantitative measure of antigens during discovery. Alternatively, the indirect ELISA (iELISA) requires only a single antibody directed against a target antigen that has been immobilized to a surface. Unlike the cELISA, which uses an immobilized capture antibody that can bind a native antigen in solution followed by a detector antibody that binds captured antigen, the iELISA uses an antibody the binds directly to an immobilized antigen for detection. Although the iELISA may lack the sensitivity of a cELISA, its requirement of only a single antigen specific antibody makes it a simple technique for evaluating the relative difference in the level of target protein expression between samples. However, many antibodies that work effectively to detect protein antigens in other immunoassays such as Western blotting or immunohistochemistry fail to work in microplate based iELISA. Although these alternate immunoassay methods are useful for qualitative determination of target antigens, they provide limited quantitative information, limiting the assessment of sample specific differences in protein expression. We hypothesized that protein conformation following adsorption on the plastic surface of microplates impedes antibody epitope binding and this restriction could be overcome by a short chemical denaturation step. In this report we define a rapid method to assess the utility of an antibody for iELISA application and demonstrate a significant improvement in both qualitative and quantitative protein detection after chemical denaturation using defined assay conditions.
Non-toxic derivatives of botulinum neurotoxin A (BoNT/A) have potential use as neuron-targeting delivery vehicles, and as reagents to study intracellular trafficking. We have designed and expressed an atoxic derivative of BoNT/A (BoNT/A ad) as a full-length 150 kDa molecule consisting of a 50 kDa light chain (LC) and a 100 kDa heavy chain (HC) joined by a disulfide bond and rendered atoxic through the introduction of metalloprotease-inactivating point mutations in the light chain. Studies in neuronal cultures demonstrated that BoNT/A ad cannot cleave synaptosomal-associated protein 25 (SNAP25), the substrate of wt BoNT/A, and that it effectively competes with wt BoNT/A for binding to endogenous neuronal receptors. In vitro and in vivo studies indicate accumulation of BoNT/A ad at the neuromuscular junction of the mouse diaphragm. Immunoprecipitation studies indicate that the LC of BoNT/A ad forms a complex with SNAP25 present in the neuronal cytosolic fraction, demonstrating that the atoxic LC retains the SNAP25 binding capability of the wt toxin. Toxicity of BoNT/A ad was found to be reduced approximately 100,000-fold relative to wt BoNT/A.
Prion diseases are fatal, neurodegenerative illnesses caused by the accumulation of PrP(Sc), an aberrantly folded isoform of the normal, cellular prion protein. Detection of PrP(Sc) commonly relies on immunochemical methods, a strategy hampered by the lack of Abs specific for this disease-causing isoform. In this article, we report the generation of eight mAbs against prion protein (PrP) following immunization of Prnp-null mice with rPrP. The eight mAbs exhibited distinct differential binding to cellular prion protein and PrP(Sc) from different species as well as PrP-derived synthetic peptides. Five of the eight mAbs exhibited binding to discontinuous PrP epitopes, all of which were disrupted by the addition of 2-ME or DTT, which reduced the single disulfide bond found in PrP. One mAb F20-29 reacted only with human PrP, whereas the F4-31 mAb bound bovine PrP; the K(D) values for mAbs F4-31 and F20-29 were ~500 pM. Binding of all five conformation-dependent mAbs to PrP was inhibited by 2-ME in ELISA, Western blots, and histoblots. One conformation-dependent mAb F4-31 increased the sensitivity of an ELISA-based test by nearly 500-fold when it was used as the capture Ab. These new conformation-dependent mAbs were found to be particularly useful in histoblotting studies, in which the low backgrounds after treatment with 2-ME created unusually high signal-to-noise ratios.
Prion diseases are fatal neurodegenerative disorders caused by prion proteins (PrP). Infectious prions accumulate in the brain through a template-mediated conformational conversion of endogenous PrP(C) into alternately folded PrP(Sc). Immunoassays toward pre-clinical detection of infectious PrP(Sc) have been confounded by low-level prion accumulation in non-neuronal tissue and the lack of PrP(Sc) selective antibodies. We report a method to purify infectious PrP(Sc) from biological tissues for use as an immunogen and sample enrichment for increased immunoassay sensitivity. Significant prion enrichment is accomplished by sucrose gradient centrifugation of infected tissue and isolation with detergent resistant membranes from lipid rafts (DRMs). At equivalent protein concentration a 50-fold increase in detectable PrP(Sc) was observed in DRM fractions relative to crude brain by direct ELISA. Sequential purification steps result in increased specific infectivity (DRM <20-fold and purified DRM immunogen <40-fold) relative to 1% crude brain homogenate. Purification of PrP(Sc) from DRM was accomplished using phosphotungstic acid protein precipitation after proteinase-K (PK) digestion followed by size exclusion chromatography to separate PK and residual protein fragments from larger prion aggregates. Immunization with purified PrP(Sc) antigen was performed using wild-type (wt) and Prnp(0/0) mice, both on Balb/cJ background. A robust immune response against PrP(Sc) was observed in all inoculated Prnp(0/0) mice resulting in antisera containing high-titer antibodies against prion protein. Antisera from these mice recognized both PrP(C) and PrP(Sc), while binding to other brain-derived protein was not observed. In contrast, the PrP(Sc) inoculum was non-immunogenic in wt mice and antisera showed no reactivity with PrP or any other protein.
Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT), the causative agent of botulism, a serious neuroparylatic disease, is produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum and consists of a family of seven serotypes (A-H). We previously reported production of high-affinity monoclonal antibodies to BoNT serotype A.
F1-2 and F1-5 are mouse IgG1 monoclonal antibodies that bind the heavy chain of Botulinum neurotoxin serotype A (BoNT/A). To characterize the epitopes of F1-2 and F1-5, three complementary experimental approaches were selected. First, recombinant peptide fragments of BoNT/A heavy-chain were used in Western blots to identify the epitope regions. Second, a peptide phage display library was used to identify specific amino acids bound by F1-2 and F1-5, and these amino acids were mapped onto the three-dimensional structure of BoNT/A. Third, selected amino acids were mutated to alanine and the effects of the mutations on F1-2 and F1-5 binding were evaluated. Data from recombinant peptide fragment binding experiments suggested that the epitopes for antibodies F1-2 and F1-5 are located between amino acids R564 and S793 on the toxin heavy chain. Furthermore, elimination of amino acids from the amino terminus (R564-K595), or from the carboxyl terminus (N759-S793) of this fragment abolished binding of both F1-2 and F1-5, suggesting a conformational epitope for these antibodies. Peptide sequences deduced from antibody binding to the peptide phage display library suggested that tyrosine residues located at positions 748, 750, and 753 might form a significant part of the F1-2 and F1-5 epitope motif. Mutation of Y750 or Y753 to alanine significantly reduced binding of either antibody, while mutation of Y748 to alanine had no effect on antibody binding. The nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequences of the variable regions of the heavy chains of F1-2 and F1-5 are reported. The complementarity determining regions (CDRs) of the heavy chains were found to be 78% identical. It is possible that F1-2 and F1-5 bind the same epitope via the common amino acids within their CDRs.
Adulteration of food or feed with any of the seven serotypes of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is a potential bioterrorism concern. Currently, there is strong interest in the development of detection reagents, vaccines, therapeutics, and other countermeasures. A sensitive immunoassay for detecting BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A), based on monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) F1-2 and F1-40, has been developed and used in complex matrices. The epitope for F1-2 has been mapped to the heavy chain of BoNT/A, and the epitope of F1-40 has been mapped to the light chain. The ability of these MAbs to provide therapeutic protection against BoNT/A intoxication in mouse intravenous and oral intoxication models was tested. High dosages of individual MAbs protected mice well both pre- and postexposure to BoNT/A holotoxin. A combination therapy consisting of antibodies against both the light and heavy chains of the toxin, however, significantly increased protection, even at a lower MAb dosage. An in vitro peptide assay for measuring toxin activity showed that pretreatment of toxin with these MAbs did not block catalytic activity but instead blocked toxin entry into primary and cultured neuronal cells. The timing of antibody rescue in the mouse intoxication models revealed windows of opportunity for antibody therapeutic treatment that correlated well with the biologic half-life of the toxin in the serum. Knowledge of BoNT intoxication and antibody clearance in these mouse models and understanding of the pharmacokinetics of BoNT are invaluable for future development of antibodies and therapeutics against intoxication by BoNT.
Botulism, an often fatal neuroparalytic disease, is caused by botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) which consist of a family of seven serotypes (A-H) produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum. BoNT, considered the most potent biological toxin known, is a 150 kDa protein consisting of a 100 kDa heavy-chain (Hc) and a 50 kDa light-chain (Lc). F1-40 is a mouse-derived, IgG1 monoclonal antibody that binds the light chain of BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A) and is used in a sensitive immunoassay for toxin detection. We report the fine epitope mapping of F1-40 and the deduced amino acid sequence of the variable regions of the heavy and light chains of the antibody.
Human infection by Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is one of the most prevalent foodborne diseases. Shiga toxin type 2 (Stx2) is the major contributor to hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) and other systemic complications caused by STEC. Although outbreaks of HUS due to the consumption of dairy products occur frequently, very few reports are available on assays for the detection of Stx2 in milk. In this study, we describe the development of five high-affinity monoclonal antibodies (dissociation constants below nM range) against Stx2 using a recombinant toxoid as an immunogen. These antibodies, designated Stx2-1, Stx2-2, Stx2-3, Stx2-4, and Stx2-5 are IgG1 or IgG2a heavy-chain subclass with kappa light-chains, did not cross-react with Stx1 and showed different preferences to variants of Stx2. Western blot analyses demonstrate that mAbs Stx2-2 and Stx2-5 bind both the A- and B-subunits, whereas the other 3 mAbs bind the A-subunit of Stx2a only. All antibodies bound stronger to the native than to the denatured Stx2a except the mAb Stx2-3, which bound equally well to both forms of the toxin. Of the five mAbs, Stx2-5 was capable of neutralizing Stx2a mediated cytotoxicity in Vero cells. Highly sensitive ELISA and immuno-PCR assays, capable of detecting 1 and 0.01 pg/mL of Stx2a in milk, were developed using mAb pair Stx2-1 and Stx2-2. Such assays are useful for routine diagnosis of Stx2 contamination in milk production process, thus reducing the risk of STEC outbreaks.
Prions, or infectious proteins, cause a class of uniformly fatal neurodegenerative diseases. Prions are composed solely of an aberrantly folded isoform (PrP(Sc)) of a normal cellular protein (PrP(C)). Shared sequence identity of PrP(Sc) with PrP(C) has limited the detection sensitivity of immunochemical assays, as antibodies specific for the disease-causing PrP(Sc) isoform have not been developed. Here we report the generation of three new monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to PrP, which were isolated following immunization of Prnp(0/0) Balb/cJ mice with highly purified PrP(Sc) isolated from brain lipid rafts. Epitope mapping using synthetic PrP peptides revealed that the three MAbs bind different epitopes of PrP. The DRM1-31 MAb has a conformational epitope at the proposed binding site for the putative prion conversion co-factor "protein X." The DRM1-60 MAb binds a single linear epitope localized to the ?2-?2 loop region of PrP, whereas DRM2-118 binds an epitope that includes sequences within the octarepeat region and near the site of N-terminal truncation of PrP(Sc) by proteinase K. Our novel anti-PrP MAbs with defined PrP epitopes may be useful in deciphering the conformational conversion of PrP(C) into PrP(Sc).
Rapid, high-throughput assays that detect and quantify botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) activity in diverse matrices are required for environmental, clinical, pharmaceutical, and food testing. The current standard, the mouse bioassay, is sensitive but is low in throughput and precision. In this study, we present three biochemical assays for the detection and quantification of BoNT serotype A, B, and F proteolytic activities in complex matrices that offer picomolar to femtomolar sensitivity with small assay volumes and total assay times of less than 24 h. These assays consist of magnetic beads conjugated with BoNT serotype-specific antibodies that are used to purify BoNT from complex matrices before the quantification of bound BoNT proteolytic activity using the previously described BoTest reporter substrates. The matrices tested include human serum, whole milk, carrot juice, and baby food, as well as buffers containing common pharmaceutical excipients. The limits of detection were below 1 pM for BoNT/A and BoNT/F and below 10 pM for BoNT/B in most tested matrices using 200-?l samples and as low as 10 fM for BoNT/A with an increased sample volume. Together, these data describe rapid, robust, and high-throughput assays for BoNT detection that are compatible with a wide range of matrices.
Because of its high toxicity, botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) poses a significant risk to humans and it represents a possible biological warfare agent. Nevertheless, BoNT serotypes A and B are considered an effective treatment for a variety of neurological disorders. The growing applicability of BoNT as a drug, and its potential use as a biological threat agent, highlight the urgent need to develop sensitive detection assays and therapeutic counter measures. In the last decade, significant progress has been made in BoNT detection technologies but none have fully replaced the mouse lethality assay, the current "gold standard". Recently, new advances in robotics and the availability of new reagents have allowed development of methods for rapid toxin analysis. These technologies while promising need further refinement.
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are the most potent toxins known. Produced by Clostridium botulinum, BoNTs are classified into seven, antigenically distinct serotypes, designated A-G. The toxin acts to inhibit acetylcholine release, resulting in paralysis and death. Naturally occurring foodborne disease is most often the result of improper canning of foods, while wound botulism, associated with injection drug users, is on the rise. Because of its potency, BoNTs have also been identified as targets for use by bioterrorists. The gold standard of detection of BoNTs is the mouse bioassay, an expensive and time consuming test that requires specialized equipment and trained personnel. There is a need for a rapid, sensitive diagnostic for BoNTs that could be used by minimally trained personnel in the event of a foodborne outbreak or a bioterrorist threat. Here, we describe the use of a single lateral flow device (LFD) that can detect and distinguish between BoNT/A and B, two of the four serotypes that are known to intoxicate humans and together represent >80% of naturally occurring illness. The device could detect as little as 5 ng/mL of purified BoNT/A and 10 ng/mL of BoNT/B in 2% and 1% milk, respectively. In undiluted apple juice, 25 ng/mL of BoNT/A and 10 ng/mL of BoNT/B could be detected. No cross reactivity between BoNT/A and B antibodies was observed. The LFD described here is easy to use, requires no specialized training or equipment, and can identify and distinguish between BoNT/A and /B serotypes. These attributes make this rapid diagnostic device a potentially valuable tool in the fields of food safety and homeland security.
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