Ricin, one of the most potent and lethal toxins known, is classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a select agent. Currently, there is no available antidote against ricin exposure, and the most promising therapy is based on neutralizing antibodies elicited by active vaccination or that are given passively. The aim of this study was to characterize the repertoire of anti-ricin antibodies generated in rabbits immunized with ricin toxoid. These anti-ricin antibodies exhibit an exceptionally high avidity (thiocyanate-based avidity index, 9 M) toward ricin and an apparent affinity of 1 nM. Utilizing a novel tissue culture-based assay that enables the determination of ricin activity within a short time period, we found that the anti-ricin antibodies also possess a very high neutralizing titer. In line with these findings, these antibodies conferred mice with full protection against pulmonary ricinosis when administered as a passive vaccination. Epitope mapping analysis using phage display random peptide libraries revealed that the polyclonal serum contains four immunodominant epitopes, three of which are located on the A subunit and one on the B subunit of ricin. Only two of the four epitopes were found to have a significant role in ricin neutralization. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work that characterizes these immunological aspects of the polyclonal response to ricin holotoxin-based vaccination. These findings provide useful information and a possible strategy for the development and design of an improved ricin holotoxin-based vaccine.
We report the draft whole-genome sequence of the nonproteolytic Bacillus anthracis V770-NP1-R strain. Compared to those of other B. anthracis strains, the genome exhibits unique mutations in multiple targets potentially affecting proteolytic functions. One of these mutations is a deletion that disrupts the NprR quorum-sensing regulator of the NprA protease.
Recently we described an unbiased bacterial whole-genome immunoinformatic analysis aimed at selection of potential CTL epitopes located in "hotspots" of predicted MHC-I binders. Applying this approach to the proteome of the facultative intra-cellular pathogen Francisella tularensis resulted in identification of 170 novel CTL epitopes, several of which were shown to elicit highly robust T cell responses. Here we demonstrate that by DNA immunization using a short DNA fragment expressing six of the most prominent identified CTL epitopes a potent and specific CD8+ T cell responses is being induced, to all encoded epitopes, a response not observed in control mice immunized with the DNA vector alone Moreover, this CTL-specific mediated immune response prevented disease development, allowed for a rapid clearance of the bacterial infection and provided complete protection against lethal challenge (10LD50) with F. tularensis holarctica Live Vaccine Strain (LVS) (a total to 30 of 30 immunized mice survived the challenge while all control DNA vector immunized mice succumbed). Furthermore, and in accordance with these results, CD8 deficient mice could not be protected from lethal challenge after immunization with the CTL-polyepitope. Vaccination with the DNA poly-epitope construct could even protect mice (8/10) against the more demanding pulmonary lethal challenge of LVS. Our approach provides a proof-of-principle for selecting and generating a multi-epitpoe CD8 T cell-stimulating vaccine against a model intracellular bacterium.
Plague, initiated by Yersinia pestis infection, is a rapidly progressing disease with a high mortality rate if not quickly treated. The existence of antibiotic-resistant Y. pestis strains emphasizes the need for the development of novel countermeasures against plague. We previously reported the generation of a recombinant Y. pestis strain (Kim53?J+P) that over-expresses Y. enterocolitica YopP. When this strain was administered subcutaneously to mice, it elicited a fast and effective protective immune response in models of bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic plague. In the present study, we further characterized the immune response induced by the Kim53?J+P recombinant strain. Using a panel of mouse strains defective in specific immune functions, we observed the induction of a prompt protective innate immune response that was interferon-? dependent. Moreover, inoculation of mice with Y. pestis Kim53?J+P elicited a rapid protective response against secondary infection by other bacterial pathogens, including the enteropathogen Y. enterocolitica and the respiratory pathogen Francisella tularensis. Thus, the development of new therapies to enhance the innate immune response may provide an initial critical delay in disease progression following the exposure to highly virulent bacterial pathogens, extending the time window for successful treatment.
We demonstrate that disruption of the htrA (high temperature requirement A) gene in either the virulent Bacillus anthracis Vollum (pXO1(+) , pXO2(+) ), or in the ?Vollum (pXO1(-), pXO2(-), nontoxinogenic and noncapsular) strains, affect significantly the ability of the resulting mutants to withstand heat, oxidative, ethanol and osmotic stress. The ?htrA mutants manifest altered secretion of several proteins, as well as complete silencing of the abundant extracellular starvation-associated neutral protease A (NprA). Vollum?htrA bacteria exhibit delayed proliferation in a macrophage infection assay, and despite their ability to synthesize the major B. anthracis toxins LT (lethal toxin) and ET (oedema toxin) as well as the capsule, show a decrease of over six orders of magnitude in virulence (lethal dose 50% = 3 × 10(8) spores, in the guinea pig model of anthrax), as compared with the parental wild-type strain. This unprecedented extent of loss of virulence in B. anthracis, as a consequence of deletion of a single gene, as well as all other phenotypic defects associated with htrA mutation, are restored in their corresponding trans-complemented strains. It is suggested that the loss of virulence is due to increased susceptibility of the ?htrA bacteria to stress insults encountered in the host. On a practical note, it is demonstrated that the attenuated Vollum ?htrA is highly efficacious in protecting guinea pigs against a lethal anthrax challenge.
The cellular arm of the immune response plays a central role in the defense against intracellular pathogens, such as F. tularensis. To date, whole genome immunoinformatic analyses were limited either to relatively small genomes (e.g. viral) or to preselected subsets of proteins in complex pathogens. Here we present, for the first time, an unbiased bacterial global immunoinformatic screen of the 1740 proteins of F. tularensis subs. holarctica (LVS), aiming at identification of immunogenic peptides eliciting a CTL response. The very large number of predicted MHC class I binders (about 100,000, IC(50) of 1000 nM or less) required the design of a strategy for further down selection of CTL candidates. The approach developed focused on mapping clusters rich in overlapping predicted epitopes, and ranking these "hotspot" regions according to the density of putative binding epitopes. Limited by the experimental load, we selected to screen a library of 1240 putative MHC binders derived from 104 top-ranking highly dense clusters. Peptides were tested for their ability to stimulate IFN? secretion from splenocytes isolated from LVS vaccinated C57BL/6 mice. The majority of the clusters contained one or more CTL responder peptides and altogether 127 novel epitopes were identified, of which 82 are non-redundant. Accordingly, the level of success in identification of positive CTL responders was 17-25 fold higher than that found for a randomly selected library of 500 predicted MHC binders (IC(50) of 500 nM or less). Most proteins (ca. 2/3) harboring the highly dense hotspots are membrane-associated. The approach for enrichment of true positive CTL epitopes described in this study, which allowed for over 50% increase in the dataset of known T-cell epitopes of F. tularensis, could be applied in immunoinformatic analyses of many other complex pathogen genomes.
Two alternative promoter trap libraries, based on the green fluorescence protein (gfp) reporter and on the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (cat) cassette, were constructed for isolation of potent Francisella tularensis promoters. Of the 26,000 F. tularensis strain LVS gfp library clones, only 3 exhibited visible fluorescence following UV illumination and all appeared to carry the bacterioferritin promoter (Pbfr). Out of a total of 2,000 chloramphenicol-resistant LVS clones isolated from the cat promoter library, we arbitrarily selected 40 for further analysis. Over 80% of these clones carry unique F. tularensis DNA sequences which appear to drive a wide range of protein expression, as determined by specific chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) Western dot blot and enzymatic assays. The DNA sequence information for the 33 unique and novel F. tularensis promoters reported here, along with the results of in silico and primer extension analyses, suggest that F. tularensis possesses classical Escherichia coli ?(70)-related promoter motifs. These motifs include the -10 (TATAAT) and -35 [TTGA(C/T)A] domains and an AT-rich region upstream from -35, reminiscent of but distinct from the E. coli upstream region that is termed the UP element. The most efficient promoter identified (Pbfr) appears to be about 10 times more potent than the F. tularensis groEL promoter and is probably among the strongest promoters in F. tularensis. The battery of promoters identified in this work will be useful, among other things, for genetic manipulation in the background of F. tularensis intended to gain better understanding of the mechanisms involved in pathogenesis and virulence, as well as for vaccine development studies.
Francisella tularensis is an intercellular bacterium often causing fatal disease when inhaled. Previous reports have underlined the role of cell-mediated immunity and IFNgamma in the host response to Francisella tularensis infection.
We have shown previously that conjugation of polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains to recombinant human acetylcholinesterase (rHuAChE) results in the extension of its residence time in the circulation of mice and monkeys [1,2]. By profiling the pharmacokinetic behavior of an array of well-defined hypolysine human mutant AChE molecules following PEGylation, we now determine that the duration of these enzyme forms in the circulation of rhesus macaques correlates with their number of appended PEG moieties, and is influenced by the actual location of the PEG chains at the molecule surface, as well. These findings, which concur with those we have previously established in mice, indicate that a common set of rules dictates the circulatory fate of PEGylated HuAChEs in rodents and non-human primates. In addition to its effect on circulatory residence, PEGylation reduces the ability of the rHuAChE bioscavenger to elicit an immune response in the heterologous mouse animal system. Thus, an inverse relationship between anti-AChE antibody production and PEG loading was observed following repeated administration of the different PEGylated hypolysine human AChEs to mice. We note however, that in rhesus macaques, the essentially homologous (human) AChE does not induce specific anti-AChE antibodies after repeated administration of high doses of the enzyme in its PEGylated form, and even in its non-PEGylated form. Taken together, these findings indicate that PEG acts by veiling enzyme-related epitopes, which would otherwise interact with host circulatory elimination pathways and immune system. The barring of such interactions by obstructive PEGs, confers the enzyme molecule with both extended circulatory residence and mitigated immunogenic properties. Further modulation by incorporation of the F338A mutation into the PEGylated hypolysine rHuAChE enzyme mold, resulted in the generation of an OP-bioscavenger that displayed reduced aging rates and could effectively protect mice against repeated exposure to CW agents. This selected 4-PEG F338A-AChE can serve as a paradigm for new generation OP-bioscavengers, specifically tailored for prophylactic treatment against toxic OP-agents.
A search for bacterium-specific biomarkers in peripheral blood following infection with Bacillus anthracis was carried out with rabbits, using a battery of specific antibodies generated by DNA vaccination against 10 preselected highly immunogenic bacterial antigens which were identified previously by a genomic/proteomic/serologic screen of the B. anthracis secretome. Detection of infection biomarkers in the circulation of infected rabbits could be achieved only after removal of highly abundant serum proteins by chromatography using a random-ligand affinity column. Besides the toxin component protective antigen, the following three secreted proteins were detected in the circulation of infected animals: the chaperone and protease HtrA (BA3660), an NlpC/P60 endopeptidase (BA1952), and a protein of unknown function harboring two SH3 (Src homology 3) domains (BA0796). The three proteins could be detected in plasma samples from infected animals exhibiting 10(3) to 10(5) CFU/ml blood and also in standard blood cultures at 3 to 6 h post-bacterial inoculation at a bacteremic level as low as 10(3) CFU/ml. Furthermore, the three biomarkers appear to be present only in the secretome of B. anthracis, not in those of the related pathogens B. thuringiensis and B. cereus. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of direct detection of B. anthracis-specific proteins, other than the toxin components, in the circulation of infected animals.
This study examines the efficacy, bacterial load, and humoral response of extensively delayed ciprofloxacin or doxycycline treatments following airway exposure of mice to Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica (strain LVS) or to the highly virulent F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (strain SchuS4). A delay in onset of both antibiotic treatments allowed the rescue of all LVS-infected animals. However, for animals infected with SchuS4, only ciprofloxacin was efficacious and prolongation of treatment rescued all animals.
Deciphering the cellular immunome of a bacterial pathogen is challenging due to the enormous number of putative peptidic determinants. State-of-the-art prediction methods developed in recent years enable to significantly reduce the number of peptides to be screened, yet the number of remaining candidates for experimental evaluation is still in the range of ten-thousands, even for a limited coverage of MHC alleles. We have recently established a resource-efficient approach for down selection of candidates and enrichment of true positives, based on selection of predicted MHC binders located in high density "hotspots" of putative epitopes. This cluster-based approach was applied to an unbiased, whole genome search of Francisella tularensis CTL epitopes and was shown to yield a 17-25 fold higher level of responders as compared to randomly selected predicted epitopes tested in Kb/Db C57BL/6 mice. In the present study, we further evaluate the cluster-based approach (down to a lower density range) and compare this approach to the classical affinity-based approach by testing putative CTL epitopes with predicted IC(50) values of <10 nM. We demonstrate that while the percent of responders achieved by both approaches is similar, the profile of responders is different, and the predicted binding affinity of most responders in the cluster-based approach is relatively low (geometric mean of 170 nM), rendering the two approaches complimentary. The cluster-based approach is further validated in BALB/c F. tularensis immunized mice belonging to another allelic restriction (Kd/Dd) group. To date, the cluster-based approach yielded over 200 novel F. tularensis peptides eliciting a cellular response, all were verified as MHC class I binders, thereby substantially increasing the F. tularensis dataset of known CTL epitopes. The generality and power of the high density cluster-based approach suggest that it can be a valuable tool for identification of novel CTLs in proteomes of other bacterial pathogens.
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