We have previously designed and characterized versions of anthrax lethal toxin that are selectively cytotoxic in the tumor microenvironment and which display broad and potent anti-tumor activities in vivo. Here, we have performed the first direct comparison of the safety and efficacy of three engineered anthrax lethal toxin variants requiring activation by either matrix-metalloproteinases (MMPs), urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) or co-localized MMP/uPA activities. C57BL/6J mice were challenged with six doses of engineered toxins via intraperitoneal (I.P.) or intravenous (I.V.) dose routes to determine the maximum tolerated dose for six administrations (MTD6) and dose-limiting toxicities. Efficacy was evaluated using the B16-BL6 syngraft model of melanoma; mice bearing established tumors were treated with six I.P. doses of toxin and tumor measurements and immunohistochemistry, paired with terminal blood work, were used to elaborate upon the anti-tumor mechanism and relative efficacy of each variant. We found that MMP-, uPA- and dual MMP/uPA-activated anthrax lethal toxins exhibited the same dose-limiting toxicity; dose-dependent GI toxicity. In terms of efficacy, all three toxins significantly reduced primary B16-BL6 tumor burden, ranging from 32% to 87% reduction, and they also delayed disease progression as evidenced by dose-dependent normalization of blood work values. While target organ toxicity and effective doses were similar amongst the variants, the dual MMP/uPA-activated anthrax lethal toxin exhibited the highest I.P. MTD6 and was 1.5-3-fold better tolerated than the single MMP- and uPA-activated toxins. Overall, we demonstrate that this dual MMP/uPA-activated anthrax lethal toxin can be administered safely and is highly effective in a preclinical model of melanoma. This modified bacterial cytotoxin is thus a promising candidate for further clinical development and evaluation for use in treating human cancers.
Surface biofunctional modification of coronary artery stents to prevent thrombosis and restenosis formation, as well as accelerate endothelialization, has become a new hot spot. However, bioactive coatings on implants are not yet sufficiently developed for long-term activity, as they quickly lose efficiency in vivo and finally fail. On the basis of a novel time-ordered concept of biofunctionality for vascular stents, heparin/poly l-lysine nanoparticle (NP) was developed and immobilized on a polydopamine-coated titanium surface, with the aim of regulating and maintaining the intravascular biological response within the normal range after biomaterial implantation. An in vitro dynamic release model was established to mimic the blood flow condition in vivo with three phases: (1) An early phase (1-7 days) with release of predominantly anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory substances and to a minor degree antiproliferative effects against smooth muscle cells (SMCs); (2) this is followed by a phase (7-14 days) of supported endothelial cell (ECs) proliferation and suppressed SMC proliferation with persisting high antithrombogenicity and anti-inflammatory properties of the surface. (3) Finally, a stable stage (14-28 days) with adequate biomolecules on the surface that maintain hemocompatibility and anti inflammation as well as inhibit SMCs proliferation and promote ECs growth. In vivo animal tests further confirmed that the NP-modified surface provides a favorable release behavior to apply a stage-adjusted remedy. We suggested that these observations provide important guidance and potential means for reasonable and suitable platform construction on a stent surface.
The pathophysiological effects resulting from many bacterial diseases are caused by exotoxins released by the bacteria. Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming bacterium, is such a pathogen, causing anthrax through a combination of bacterial infection and toxemia. B. anthracis causes natural infection in humans and animals and has been a top bioterrorism concern since the 2001 anthrax attacks in the USA. The exotoxins secreted by B. anthracis use capillary morphogenesis protein 2 (CMG2) as the major toxin receptor and play essential roles in pathogenesis during the entire course of the disease. This review focuses on the activities of anthrax toxins and their roles in initial and late stages of anthrax infection.
Restenosis, thrombosis formation and delayed endothelium regeneration continue to be problematic for coronary artery stent therapy. To improve the hemocompatibility of the cardiovascular implants and selectively direct vascular cell behavior, a novel kind of heparin/poly-l-lysine (Hep/PLL) nanoparticle was developed and immobilized on a dopamine-coated surface. The stability and structural characteristics of the nanoparticles changed with the Hep:PLL concentration ratio. A Hep density gradient was created on a surface by immobilizing nanoparticles with various Hep:PLL ratios on a dopamine-coated surface. Antithrombin III binding quantity was significantly enhanced, and in plasma the APTT and TT times as coagulation tests were prolonged, depending on the Hep density. A low Hep density is sufficient to prevent platelet adhesion and activation. The sensitivity of vascular cells to the Hep density is very different: high Hep density inhibits the growth of all vascular cells, while low Hep density could selectively inhibit smooth muscle cell hyperplasia but promote endothelial progenitor cells and endothelial cell proliferation. These observations provide important guidance for modification of surface heparinization. We suggest that this method will provide a potential means to construct a suitable platform on a stent surface for selective direction of vascular cell behavior with low side effects.
Anthrax toxin proteins from Bacillus anthracis constitute a highly efficient system for delivering cytotoxic enzymes to the cytosol of tumor cells. However, exogenous proteins delivered to the cytosol of cells are subject to ubiquitination on lysines and proteasomal degradation, which limit their potency. We created fusion proteins containing modified ubiquitins with their C-terminal regions fused to the Pseudomonas exotoxin A catalytic domain (PEIII) in order to achieve delivery and release of PEIII to the cytosol. Fusion proteins in which all seven lysines of wild-type ubiquitin were retained while the site cleaved by cytosolic deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) was removed were nontoxic, apparently due to rapid ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Fusion proteins in which all lysines of wild-type ubiquitin were substituted by arginine had high potency, exceeding that of a simple fusion lacking ubiquitin. This variant was less toxic to nontumor tissues in mice than the fusion protein lacking ubiquitin and was very efficient for tumor treatment in mice. The potency of these proteins was highly dependent on the number of lysines retained in the ubiquitin domain and on retention of the C-terminal ubiquitin sequence cleaved by DUBs. It appears that rapid cytosolic release of a cytotoxic enzyme (e.g., PEIII) that is itself resistant to ubiquitination is an effective strategy for enhancing the potency of tumor-targeting toxins.
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax disease, is lethal owing to the actions of two exotoxins: anthrax lethal toxin (LT) and oedema toxin (ET). The key tissue targets responsible for the lethal effects of these toxins are unknown. Here we generated cell-type-specific anthrax toxin receptor capillary morphogenesis protein-2 (CMG2)-null mice and cell-type-specific CMG2-expressing mice and challenged them with the toxins. Our results show that lethality induced by LT and ET occurs through damage to distinct cell types; whereas targeting cardiomyocytes and vascular smooth muscle cells is required for LT-induced mortality, ET-induced lethality occurs mainly through its action in hepatocytes. Notably, and in contradiction to what has been previously postulated, targeting of endothelial cells by either toxin does not seem to contribute significantly to lethality. Our findings demonstrate that B. anthracis has evolved to use LT and ET to induce host lethality by coordinately damaging two distinct vital systems.
Anthrax toxin protective antigen (PA) delivers its effector proteins into the host cell cytosol through formation of an oligomeric pore, which can assume heptameric or octameric states. By screening a highly directed library of PA mutants, we identified variants that complement each other to exclusively form octamers. These PA variants were individually nontoxic and demonstrated toxicity only when combined with their complementary partner. We then engineered requirements for activation by matrix metalloproteases and urokinase plasminogen activator into two of these variants. The resulting therapeutic toxin specifically targeted cells expressing both tumor associated proteases and completely stopped tumor growth in mice when used at a dose far below that which caused toxicity. This scheme for obtaining intercomplementing subunits can be employed with other oligomeric proteins and potentially has wide application.
In this study, we attempt to target the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells using a recombinant anthrax lethal toxin (LeTx). LeTx consists of protective antigen (PrAg) and lethal factor (LF). PrAg binds cells, is cleaved by furin, oligomerizes, binds three to four molecules of LF, and undergoes endocytosis, releasing LF into the cytosol. LF cleaves MAPK kinases, inhibiting the MAPK pathway. We tested potency of LeTx on a panel of 11 human AML cell lines. Seven cell lines showed cytotoxic responses to LeTx. Cytotoxicity of LeTx was mimicked by the specific mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase 1/2 (MEK1/2) inhibitor U0126, indicating that LeTx-induced cell death is mediated through the MEK1/2-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) branch of the MAPK pathway. The four LeTx-resistant cell lines were sensitive to the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor LY294002. Co-treatment of AML cells with both LeTx and LY294002 did not lead to increased sensitivity, showing a lack of additive/synergistic effects when both pathways are inhibited. Flow cytometry analysis of MAPK pathway activation revealed the presence of phospho-ERK1/2 only in LeTx-sensitive cells. Staining for Annexin V/propidium iodide and active caspases showed an increase in double-positive cells and the absence of caspase activation following treatment, indicating that LeTx-induced cell death is caspase-independent and nonapoptotic. We have shown that a majority of AML cell lines are sensitive to the LF-mediated inhibition of the MAPK pathway. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that LeTx-induced cytotoxicity in AML cells is nonapoptotic and dependent on phospho-ERK1/2 levels.
Diphthamide is a highly modified histidine residue in eukaryal translation elongation factor 2 (eEF2) that is the target for irreversible ADP ribosylation by diphtheria toxin (DT). In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the initial steps of diphthamide biosynthesis are well characterized and require the DPH1-DPH5 genes. However, the last pathway step-amidation of the intermediate diphthine to diphthamide-is ill-defined. Here we mine the genetic interaction landscapes of DPH1-DPH5 to identify a candidate gene for the elusive amidase (YLR143w/DPH6) and confirm involvement of a second gene (YBR246w/DPH7) in the amidation step. Like dph1-dph5, dph6 and dph7 mutants maintain eEF2 forms that evade inhibition by DT and sordarin, a diphthamide-dependent antifungal. Moreover, mass spectrometry shows that dph6 and dph7 mutants specifically accumulate diphthine-modified eEF2, demonstrating failure to complete the final amidation step. Consistent with an expected requirement for ATP in diphthine amidation, Dph6 contains an essential adenine nucleotide hydrolase domain and binds to eEF2. Dph6 is therefore a candidate for the elusive amidase, while Dph7 apparently couples diphthine synthase (Dph5) to diphthine amidation. The latter conclusion is based on our observation that dph7 mutants show drastically upregulated interaction between Dph5 and eEF2, indicating that their association is kept in check by Dph7. Physiologically, completion of diphthamide synthesis is required for optimal translational accuracy and cell growth, as indicated by shared traits among the dph mutants including increased ribosomal -1 frameshifting and altered responses to translation inhibitors. Through identification of Dph6 and Dph7 as components required for the amidation step of the diphthamide pathway, our work paves the way for a detailed mechanistic understanding of diphthamide formation.
The anthrax edema toxin (ET) of Bacillus anthracis is composed of the receptor-binding component protective antigen (PA) and of the adenylyl cyclase catalytic moiety, edema factor (EF). Uptake of ET into cells raises intracellular concentrations of the secondary messenger cyclic AMP, thereby impairing or activating host cell functions. We report here on a new consequence of ET action in vivo. We show that in mouse models of toxemia and infection, serum PA concentrations were significantly higher in the presence of enzymatically active EF. These higher concentrations were not caused by ET-induced inhibition of PA endocytosis; on the contrary, ET induced increased PA binding and uptake of the PA oligomer in vitro and in vivo through upregulation of the PA receptors TEM8 and CMG2 in both myeloid and nonmyeloid cells. ET effects on protein clearance from circulation appeared to be global and were not limited to PA. ET also impaired the clearance of ovalbumin, green fluorescent protein, and EF itself, as well as the small molecule biotin when these molecules were coinjected with the toxin. Effects on injected protein levels were not a result of general increase in protein concentrations due to fluid loss. Functional markers for liver and kidney were altered in response to ET. Concomitantly, ET caused phosphorylation and activation of the aquaporin-2 water channel present in the principal cells of the collecting ducts of the kidneys that are responsible for fluid homeostasis. Our data suggest that in vivo, ET alters circulatory protein and small molecule pharmacokinetics by an as-yet-undefined mechanism, thereby potentially allowing a prolonged circulation of anthrax virulence factors such as EF during infection.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. Although considerable progress has been made in elucidating the etiology of the disease, the prognosis for individuals diagnosed with HNSCC remains poor, underscoring the need for development of additional treatment modalities. HNSCC is characterized by the upregulation of a large number of proteolytic enzymes, including urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) and an assortment of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) that may be expressed by tumor cells, by tumor-supporting stromal cells or by both. Here we explored the use of an intercomplementing anthrax toxin that requires combined cell surface uPA and MMP activities for cellular intoxication and specifically targets the ERK/MAPK pathway for the treatment of HNSCC. We found that this toxin displayed strong systemic anti-tumor activity towards a variety of xenografted human HNSCC cell lines by inducing apoptotic and necrotic tumor cell death, and by impairing tumor cell proliferation and angiogenesis. Interestingly, the human HNSCC cell lines were insensitive to the intercomplementing toxin when cultured ex vivo, suggesting that either the toxin targets the tumor-supporting stromal cell compartment or that the tumor cell requirement for ERK/MAPK signaling differs in vivo and ex vivo. This intercomplementing toxin warrants further investigation as an anti-HNSCC agent.
MyD88-deficient mice were previously shown to have increased susceptibility to Bacillus anthracis infection relative to wild-type animals. To determine the mechanism by which MyD88 protects against B. anthracis infection, knockout mice were challenged with nonencapsulated, toxigenic B. anthracis or with anthrax toxins. MyD88-deficient mice had increased susceptibility to B. anthracis and anthrax lethal toxin but not to edema toxin. Lethal toxin alone induced marked multifocal intestinal ulcers in the knockout animals, compromising the intestinal epithelial barrier. The resulting enteric bacterial leakage in the knockout animals led to peritonitis and septicemia. Focal ulcers and erosion were also found in MyD88-heterozygous control mice but with far lower incidence and severity. B. anthracis infection also induced a similar enteric bacterial septicemia in MyD88-deficient mice but not in heterozygous controls. We show that lethal toxin and B. anthracis challenge induce bacteremia as a result of intestinal damage in MyD88-deficient mice. These results suggest that loss of the intestinal epithelial barrier and enteric bacterial septicemia may contribute to sensitizing MyD88-deficient mice to B. anthracis and that MyD88 plays a protective role against lethal toxin-induced impairment of intestinal barrier.
Inhalational anthrax, a zoonotic disease caused by the inhalation of Bacillus anthracis spores, has a ?50% fatality rate even when treated with antibiotics. Pathogenesis is dependent on the activity of two toxic noncovalent complexes: edema toxin (EdTx) and lethal toxin (LeTx). Protective antigen (PA), an essential component of both complexes, binds with high affinity to the major receptor mediating the lethality of anthrax toxin in vivo, capillary morphogenesis protein 2 (CMG2). Certain antibodies against PA have been shown to protect against anthrax in vivo. As an alternative to anti-PA antibodies, we produced a fusion of the extracellular domain of human CMG2 and human IgG Fc, using both transient and stable tobacco plant expression systems. Optimized expression led to the CMG2-Fc fusion protein being produced at high levels: 730 mg/kg fresh leaf weight in Nicotiana benthamiana and 65 mg/kg in N. tabacum. CMG2-Fc, purified from tobacco plants, fully protected rabbits against a lethal challenge with B. anthracis spores at a dose of 2 mg/kg body weight administered at the time of challenge. Treatment with CMG2-Fc did not interfere with the development of the animals own immunity to anthrax, as treated animals that survived an initial challenge also survived a rechallenge 30 days later. The glycosylation of the Fc (or lack thereof) had no significant effect on the protective potency of CMG2-Fc in rabbits or on its serum half-life, which was about 5 days. Significantly, CMG2-Fc effectively neutralized, in vitro, LeTx-containing mutant forms of PA that were not neutralized by anti-PA monoclonal antibodies.
Bacillus anthracis infects hosts as a spore, germinates, and disseminates in its vegetative form. Production of anthrax lethal and edema toxins following bacterial outgrowth results in host death. Macrophages of inbred mouse strains are either sensitive or resistant to lethal toxin depending on whether they express the lethal toxin responsive or non-responsive alleles of the inflammasome sensor Nlrp1b (Nlrp1b(S/S) or Nlrp1b(R/R), respectively). In this study, Nlrp1b was shown to affect mouse susceptibility to infection. Inbred and congenic mice harboring macrophage-sensitizing Nlrp1b(S/S) alleles (which allow activation of caspase-1 and IL-1? release in response to anthrax lethal toxin challenge) effectively controlled bacterial growth and dissemination when compared to mice having Nlrp1b(R/R) alleles (which cannot activate caspase-1 in response to toxin). Nlrp1b(S)-mediated resistance to infection was not dependent on the route of infection and was observed when bacteria were introduced by either subcutaneous or intravenous routes. Resistance did not occur through alterations in spore germination, as vegetative bacteria were also killed in Nlrp1b(S/S) mice. Resistance to infection required the actions of both caspase-1 and IL-1? as Nlrp1b(S/S) mice deleted of caspase-1 or the IL-1 receptor, or treated with the Il-1 receptor antagonist anakinra, were sensitized to infection. Comparison of circulating neutrophil levels and IL-1? responses in Nlrp1b(S/S),Nlrp1b(R/) (R) and IL-1 receptor knockout mice implicated Nlrp1b and IL-1 signaling in control of neutrophil responses to anthrax infection. Neutrophil depletion experiments verified the importance of this cell type in resistance to B. anthracis infection. These data confirm an inverse relationship between murine macrophage sensitivity to lethal toxin and mouse susceptibility to spore infection, and establish roles for Nlrp1b(S), caspase-1, and IL-1? in countering anthrax infection.
Bacillus anthracis kills through a combination of bacterial infection and toxemia. Anthrax toxin working via the CMG2 receptor mediates lethality late in infection, but its roles early in infection remain unclear. We generated myeloid-lineage specific CMG2-deficient mice to examine the roles of macrophages, neutrophils, and other myeloid cells in anthrax pathogenesis. Macrophages and neutrophils isolated from these mice were resistant to anthrax toxin. However, the myeloid-specific CMG2-deficient mice remained fully sensitive to both anthrax lethal and edema toxins, demonstrating that targeting of myeloid cells is not responsible for anthrax toxin-induced lethality. Surprisingly, the myeloid-specific CMG2-deficient mice were completely resistant to B. anthracis infection. Neutrophil depletion experiments suggest that B. anthracis relies on anthrax toxin secretion to evade the scavenging functions of neutrophils to successfully establish infection. This work demonstrates that anthrax toxin uptake through CMG2 and the resulting impairment of myeloid cells are essential to anthrax infection.
The urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) has emerged as a potential regulator of cell adhesion, cell migration, proliferation, differentiation, and cell survival in multiple physiologic and pathologic contexts. The urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) was the first identified ligand for uPAR, but elucidation of the specific functions of the uPA-uPAR interaction in vivo has been difficult because uPA has important physiologic functions that are independent of binding to uPAR and because uPAR engages multiple ligands. Here, we developed a new mouse strain (Plau(GFDhu/GFDhu)) in which the interaction between endogenous uPA and uPAR is selectively abrogated, whereas other functions of both the protease and its receptor are retained. Specifically, we introduced 4 amino acid substitutions into the growth factor domain (GFD) of uPA that abrogate uPAR binding while preserving the overall structure of the domain. Analysis of Plau(GFDhu/GFDhu) mice revealed an unanticipated role of the uPA-uPAR interaction in suppressing inflammation secondary to fibrin deposition. In contrast, leukocyte recruitment and tissue regeneration were unaffected by the loss of uPA binding to uPAR. This study identifies a principal in vivo role of the uPA-uPAR interaction in cell-associated fibrinolysis critical for suppression of fibrin accumulation and fibrin-associated inflammation and provides a valuable model for further exploration of this multifunctional receptor.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) is a bipartite protease-containing toxin and a key virulence determinant of Bacillus anthracis. In mice, LT causes the rapid lysis of macrophages isolated from certain inbred strains, but the correlation between murine macrophage sensitivity and mouse strain susceptibility to toxin challenge is poor. In rats, LT induces a rapid death in as little as 37 minutes through unknown mechanisms. We used a recombinant inbred (RI) rat panel of 19 strains generated from LT-sensitive and LT-resistant progenitors to map LT sensitivity in rats to a locus on chromosome 10 that includes the inflammasome NOD-like receptor (NLR) sensor, Nlrp1. This gene is the closest rat homolog of mouse Nlrp1b, which was previously shown to control murine macrophage sensitivity to LT. An absolute correlation between in vitro macrophage sensitivity to LT-induced lysis and animal susceptibility to the toxin was found for the 19 RI strains and 12 additional rat strains. Sequencing Nlrp1 from these strains identified five polymorphic alleles. Polymorphisms within the N-terminal 100 amino acids of the Nlrp1 protein were perfectly correlated with LT sensitivity. These data suggest that toxin-mediated lethality in rats as well as macrophage sensitivity in this animal model are controlled by a single locus on chromosome 10 that is likely to be the inflammasome NLR sensor, Nlrp1.
Retroviral insertional mutagenesis provides an effective forward genetic method for identifying genes involved in essential cellular pathways. A Chinese hamster ovary cell line mutant resistant to several bacterial ADP-ribosylating was obtained by this approach. The toxins used catalyze ADP-ribosylation of eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF-2), block protein synthesis, and cause cell death. Strikingly, in the CHO PR328 mutant cells, the eEF-2 substrate of these ADP-ribosylating toxins was found to be modified, but the cells remained viable. A systematic study of these cells revealed the presence of a structural mutation in one allele of the eEF-2 gene. This mutation, Gly717Arg, is close to His715, the residue that is modified to become diphthamide. This Arg substitution prevents diphthamide biosynthesis at His715, rendering the mutated eEF-2 non-responsive to ADP-ribosylating toxins, while having no apparent effect on protein synthesis. Thus, CHO PR328 cells are heterozygous, having wild type and mutant eEF-2 alleles, with the latter allowing the cells to survive even in the presence of ADP-ribosylating toxins. Here, we report the comprehensive characterization of these cells.
Dendritic cells (DC), as professional antigen presenting cells, play the central role in the process of body initiating the anti-tumor immunity, and the study on DC anti-tumor vaccine has become heated in recent years. In this study, we used polyethylene glycol (PEG) to induce renal cell carcinoma (RCC) 786-O cell line fused with peripheral blood DC of healthy volunteers, and discuss the biological characteristics of fusion vaccine and its anti-tumor effects in vitro and in human immune reconstituted SCID mice model of RCC. The study found that PEG could effectively induce cell fusion, and the expressions of CD86 and HLA-DR in fusion vaccine group were significantly up-regulated compared with the DC control group; the secretion of IL-12 was much higher and longer than that of the control; the functions of dendritic cell-tumor fusion vaccine to stimulate the proliferation of allogenic T lymphocytes and to kill RCC786-O cells in vitro were significantly higher than those of the control group, and after the killing, apoptosis body was observed in the target cells; after the injection of fusion vaccine into human immune reconstituted SCID mice model of RCC786-O via vena caudalis, the volume of mice tumor was reduced significantly, proliferation index of tumor cells decreased obviously compared with that of the control group, and more hemorrhage and putrescence focuses presented, accompanying large quantity of lymphocytes soakage. The results of this experimental study shows that fusion vaccine of RCC786-O cell line and DC can significantly stimulate the proliferation of allogenic T cells and specifically inhibit and kill RCC cells in vitro and in vivo, which makes the DC-RCC786-O fusion vaccine a possible new way of effective RCC immunotherapy.
Patients with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) typically succumb to their disease months after diagnosis despite aggressive therapy. A large percentage of ATCs have been shown to harbor the V600E B-Raf point mutation, leading to the constitutive activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. ATC invasion, metastasis, and angiogenesis are in part dependent on the gelatinase class of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). The explicit targeting of these two tumor markers may provide a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of ATC. The MMP-activated anthrax lethal toxin (LeTx), a novel recombinant protein toxin combination, shows potent mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway inhibition in gelatinase-expressing V600E B-Raf tumor cells in vitro. However, preliminary in vivo studies showed that the MMP-activated LeTx also exhibited dramatic antitumor activity against xenografts that did not show significant antiproliferative responses to the LeTx in vitro. Here, we show that the MMP-activated LeTx inhibits orthotopic ATC xenograft progression in both toxin-sensitive and toxin-resistant ATC cells via reduced endothelial cell recruitment and subsequent tumor vascularization. This in turn translates to an improved long-term survival that is comparable with that produced by the multikinase inhibitor sorafenib. Our results also indicate that therapy with the MMP-activated LeTx is extremely effective against advanced tumors with well-established vascular networks. Taken together, these results suggest that the MMP-activated LeTx-mediated endothelial cell targeting is the primary in vivo antitumor mechanism of this novel toxin. Therefore, the MMP-activated LeTx could be used not only in the clinical management of V600E B-Raf ATC but potentially in any solid tumor.
Anthrax toxin, a major virulence factor of Bacillus anthracis, gains entry into target cells by binding to either of 2 von Willebrand factor A domain-containing proteins, tumor endothelium marker-8 (TEM8) and capillary morphogenesis protein-2 (CMG2). The wide tissue expression of TEM8 and CMG2 suggest that both receptors could play a role in anthrax pathogenesis. To explore the roles of TEM8 and CMG2 in normal physiology, as well as in anthrax pathogenesis, we generated TEM8- and CMG2-null mice and TEM8/CMG2 double-null mice by deleting TEM8 and CMG2 transmembrane domains. TEM8 and CMG2 were found to be dispensable for mouse development and life, but both are essential in female reproduction in mice. We found that the lethality of anthrax toxin for mice is mostly mediated by CMG2 and that TEM8 plays only a minor role. This is likely because anthrax toxin has approximately 11-fold higher affinity for CMG2 than for TEM8. Finally, the CMG2-null mice are also shown to be highly resistant to B. anthracis spore infection, attesting to the importance of both anthrax toxin and CMG2 in anthrax infections.
Anthrax toxin is a three-part toxin secreted by Bacillus anthracis, consisting of protective antigen (PrAg), edema factor (EF), and lethal factor (LF). To intoxicate host mammalian cells, PrAg, the cell-binding moiety of the toxin, binds to cells and is then proteolytically activated by furin on the cell surface, resulting in the active heptameric form of PrAg. This heptamer serves as a protein-conducting channel that translocates EF and LF, the two enzymatic moieties of the toxin, into the cytosol of the cells where they exert cytotoxic effects. The anthrax toxin delivery system has been well characterized. The amino-terminal PrAg-binding domain of LF (residues 1-254, LFn) is sufficient to allow translocation of fused "passenger" polypeptides, such as the ADP-ribosylation domain of Pseudomonas exotoxin A, to the cytosol of the cells in a PrAg-dependent process. The protease specificity of the anthrax toxin delivery system can also be reengineered by replacing the furin cleavage target sequence of PrAg with other protease substrate sequences. PrAg-U2 is such a PrAg variant, one that is selectively activated by urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA). The uPA-dependent proteolytic activation of PrAg-U2 on the cell surface is readily detected by western blotting analysis of cell lysates in vitro, or cell or animal death in vivo. Here, we describe the use of PrAg-U2 as a molecular reporter tool to test the controversial question of what components are required for uPAR-mediated cell surface pro-uPA activation. The results demonstrate that both uPAR and plasminogen play critical roles in pro-uPA activation both in vitro and in vivo.
The scarcity of methods to visualize the activity of individual cell surface proteases in situ has hampered basic research and drug development efforts. In this chapter, we describe a simple, sensitive, and noninvasive assay that uses nontoxic reengineered bacterial cytotoxins with altered protease cleavage specificity to visualize specific cell surface proteolytic activity in single living cells. The assay takes advantage of the absolute requirement for site-specific endoproteolytic cleavage of cell surface-bound anthrax toxin protective antigen for its capacity to translocate an anthrax toxin lethal factor-beta-lactamase fusion protein to the cytoplasm. A fluorogenic beta-lactamase substrate is then used to visualize the cytoplasmically translocated anthrax toxin lethal factor-beta-lactamase fusion protein. By using anthrax toxin protective antigen variants that are reengineered to be cleaved by furin, urokinase plasminogen activator, or metalloproteinases, the cell surface activities of each of these proteases can be specifically and quantitatively determined with single cell resolution. The imaging assay is excellently suited for fluorescence microscope, fluorescence plate reader, and flow cytometry formats, and it can be used for a variety of purposes.
Solid tumor growth is dependent on angiogenesis, the formation of neovasculature from existing vessels. Endothelial activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2, c-jun NH(2)-terminal kinase, and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways is central to this process, and thus presents an attractive target for the development of angiogenesis inhibitors. Anthrax lethal toxin (LeTx) has potent catalytic mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibition activity. Preclinical studies showed that LeTx induced potent tumor growth inhibition via the inhibition of xenograft vascularization. However, LeTx receptors and the essential furin-like activating proteases are expressed in many normal tissues, potentially limiting the specificity of LeTx as an antitumor agent. To circumvent nonspecific LeTx activation and simultaneously enhance tumor vascular targeting, a substrate preferably cleaved by the gelatinases class of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) was substituted for the furin LeTx activation site. In vivo efficacy studies showed that this MMP-activated LeTx inhibited tumor xenografts growth via the reduced migration of endothelial cells into the tumor parenchyma. Here we have expanded on these initial findings by showing that this MMP-activated LeTx reduces endothelial proangiogenic MMP expression, thus causing a diminished proteolytic capacity for extracellular matrix remodeling and endothelial differentiation into capillary networks. Additionally, our data suggest that inhibition of the c-jun NH(2)-terminal kinase and p38, but not extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2, pathways is significant in the antiangiogenic activity of the MMP-activated LeTx. Collectively, these results support the clinical development of the MMP-activated LeTx for the treatment of solid tumors.
Here, we report the results of a quantitative high-throughput screen (qHTS) measuring the endocytosis and translocation of a beta-lactamase-fused-lethal factor and the identification of small molecules capable of obstructing the process of anthrax toxin internalization. Several small molecules protect RAW264.7 macrophages and CHO cells from anthrax lethal toxin and protected cells from an LF-Pseudomonas exotoxin fusion protein and diphtheria toxin. Further efforts demonstrated that these compounds impaired the PA heptamer pre-pore to pore conversion in cells expressing the CMG2 receptor, but not the related TEM8 receptor, indicating that these compounds likely interfere with toxin internalization.
Tumor endothelium marker-8 (TEM8) and capillary morphogenesis protein-2 (CMG2) are the two well-characterized anthrax toxin receptors, each containing a von Willebrand factor A (vWA) domain responsible for anthrax protective antigen (PA) binding. Recently, a cell-based analysis was used to implicate another vWA domain-containing protein, integrin ?1 as a third anthrax toxin receptor. To explore whether proteins other than TEM8 and CMG2 function as anthrax toxin receptors in vivo, we challenged mice lacking TEM8 and/or CMG2. Specifically, we used as an effector protein the fusion protein FP59, a fusion between the PA-binding domain of anthrax lethal factor (LF) and the catalytic domain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin A. FP59 is at least 50-fold more potent than LF in the presence of PA, with 2 ?g PA + 2 ?g FP59 being sufficient to kill a mouse. While TEM8(-/-) and wild type control mice succumbed to a 5 ?g PA + 5 ?g FP59 challenge, CMG2(-/-) mice were completely resistant to this dose, confirming that CMG2 is the major anthrax toxin receptor in vivo. To detect whether any toxic effects are mediated by TEM8 or other putative receptors such as integrin ?1, CMG2(-/-)/TEM8(-/-) mice were challenged with as many as five doses of 50 ?g PA + 50 ?g FP59. Strikingly, the CMG2(-/-)/TEM8(-/-) mice were completely resistant to the 5-dose challenge. These results strongly suggest that TEM8 is the only minor anthrax toxin receptor mediating direct lethality in vivo and that other proteins implicated as receptors do not play this role.
Many recombinant therapeutic proteins are purified from Escherichia coli. While expression in E. coli is easily achieved, some disadvantages such as protein aggregation, formation of inclusion bodies, and contamination of purified proteins with the lipopolysaccharides arise. Lipopolysaccharides have to be removed to prevent inflammatory responses in patients. Use of the Gram-positive Bacillus anthracis as an expression host offers a solution to circumvent these problems. Using the multiple protease-deficient strain BH460, we expressed a fusion of the N-terminal 254 amino acids of anthrax lethal factor (LFn), the N-terminal 389 amino acids of diphtheria toxin (DT389) and human transforming growth factor alpha (TGF?). The resulting fusion protein was constitutively expressed and successfully secreted by B. anthracis into the culture supernatant. Purification was achieved by anion exchange chromatography and proteolytic cleavage removed LFn from the desired fusion protein (DT389 fused to TGF?). The fusion protein showed the intended specific cytotoxicity to epidermal growth factor receptor-expressing human head and neck cancer cells. Final analyses showed low levels of lipopolysaccharides, originating most likely from contamination during the purification process. Thus, the fusion to LFn for protein secretion and expression in B. anthracis BH460 provides an elegant tool to obtain high levels of lipopolysaccharide-free recombinant protein.
Anthrax lethal factor (LF) is the protease component of anthrax lethal toxin (LT). LT induces pyroptosis in macrophages of certain inbred mouse and rat strains, while macrophages from other inbred strains are resistant to the toxin. In rats, the sensitivity of macrophages to toxin-induced cell death is determined by the presence of an LF cleavage sequence in the inflammasome sensor Nlrp1. LF cleaves rat Nlrp1 of toxin-sensitive macrophages, activating caspase-1 and inducing cell death. Toxin-resistant macrophages, however, express Nlrp1 proteins which do not harbor the LF cleavage site. We report here that mouse Nlrp1b proteins are also cleaved by LF. In contrast to the situation in rats, sensitivity and resistance of Balb/cJ and NOD/LtJ macrophages does not correlate to the susceptibility of their Nlrp1b proteins to cleavage by LF, as both proteins are cleaved. Two LF cleavage sites, at residues 38 and 44, were identified in mouse Nlrp1b. Our results suggest that the resistance of NOD/LtJ macrophages to LT, and the inability of the Nlrp1b protein expressed in these cells to be activated by the toxin are likely due to polymorphisms other than those at the LF cleavage sites.
The endothelialization of the metal surface of vascular stents came into focus as a new method for improving the biocompatibility of intravascular stents. This article has its focus on building a biofunctional layer on the activated titanium surface with anti-CD34 antibody, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and heparin by a layer-by-layer (LBL) self-assembly technique, to promote the endothelialization of the surface. When compared with titanium surface, the number of adhered endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) on LBLs increased 47.1% after 5 days culture, meanwhile the proliferation rate of EPCs on LBLs during 5 days culture also exhibit significantly improvement. The results of blood compatibility evaluation clearly show that the LBLs reduce the number of adhered and activated blood platelets (adhered: Ti 83% vs. LBL <20% and activated: Ti 57% vs. LBL 19%), and the activated partial thromboplastin time of the LBL surface prolonged about 20 s in compared with platelet-poor plasma. The assembled LBL thus improves the thromboresistance of the titanium surface. The presented biofunctional multilayer of anti-CD34, VEGF, and heparin on titanium can significantly improve the blood compatibility and the endothelialization of a medical device. The biofunctional layer supports generation of a new endothelium onto titanium surface by capturing EPCs and oriented differentiation.
Protective antigen (PA), lethal factor, and edema factor, the protein toxins of Bacillus anthracis , are among its most important virulence factors and play a key role in infection. We performed a virtual ligand screen of a library of 10000 members to identify compounds predicted to bind to PA and prevent its oligomerization. Four of these compounds slowed PA association in a FRET-based oligomerization assay, and two of those protected cells from intoxication at concentrations of 1-10 ?M. Exploration of the protective mechanism by Western blot showed decreased SDS-resistant PA oligomer on cells and, surprisingly, decreased amounts of activated PA. In vitro assays showed that one of the inhibitors blocked furin-mediated cleavage of PA, apparently through its binding to the PA substrate. Thus, we have identified inhibitors that can independently block both PAs cleavage by furin and its subsequent oligomerization. Lead optimization on these two backbones may yield compounds with high activity and specificity for the anthrax toxins.
To study the role of the diphthamide modification on eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2), we generated an eEF2 Gly(717)Arg mutant mouse, in which the first step of diphthamide biosynthesis is prevented. Interestingly, the Gly(717)-to-Arg mutation partially compensates the eEF2 functional loss resulting from diphthamide deficiency, possibly because the added +1 charge compensates for the loss of the +1 charge on diphthamide. Therefore, in contrast to mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) from OVCA1(-/-) mice, eEF2(G717R/G717R) MEFs retain full activity in polypeptide elongation and have normal growth rates. Furthermore, eEF2(G717R/G717R) mice showed milder phenotypes than OVCA1(-/-) mice (which are 100% embryonic lethal) and a small fraction survived to adulthood without obvious abnormalities. Moreover, eEF2(G717R/G717R)/OVCA1(-/-) double mutant mice displayed the milder phenotypes of the eEF2(G717R/G717R) mice, suggesting that the embryonic lethality of OVCA1(-/-) mice is due to diphthamide deficiency. We confirmed that the diphthamide modification is essential for eEF2 to prevent -1 frameshifting during translation and show that the Gly(717)-to-Arg mutation cannot rescue this defect.
PA-U2, an engineered anthrax protective antigen that is activated by urokinase was combined with wildtype lethal factor in the treatment of Colo205 colon adenocarcinoma in vitro and B16-BL6 mouse melanoma in vitro and in vivo. This therapy was also tested in combination with the small molecule paclitaxel, based on prior reports suggesting synergy between ERK1/2 inhibition and chemotherapeutics. Colo205 was sensitive to PA-U2/LF while B16-BL6 was not. For the combination treatment of B16-BL6, paclitaxel showed a dose response in vitro, but cells remained resistant to PA-U2/LF even in the presence of paclitaxel. In vivo, each therapy slowed tumor progression, and an additive effect between the two was observed. Since LF targets tumor vasculature while paclitaxel is an antimitotic, it is possible the agents were acting against different cells in the stroma, precluding a synergistic effect. The engineered anthrax toxin PA-U2/LF warrants further development and testing, possibly in combination with an antiangiogenesis therapy such as sunitinib or sorafinib.
Capillary morphogenesis protein-2 (CMG2) functions as an anthrax toxin receptor that plays an essential role in anthrax pathogenesis. Although mutations in CMG2 have been identified to cause two human autosomal recessive disorders, Juvenile Hyaline Fibromatosis and Infantile Systemic Hyalinosis, both characterized by excess hyaline material deposition in connective tissues, the physiologic function of CMG2 remains elusive. To study the roles of CMG2 in normal physiology, here we performed detailed histological analyses of the CMG2-null mice we generated previously. While no morphological or histological defects were observed in CMG2(-/-) male mice, CMG2(-/-) female mice were unable to produce any offspring due to a defect in parturition. We found that deletion of CMG2 resulted in a diffuse deposition of collagen within the myometrium of CMG2(-/-) females, causing remarkable morphological changes to their uteri. This collagen accumulation also led to loss of smooth muscle cells in the myometrium of CMG2(-/-) mice, apparently disabling uterine contractile function during parturition. As a consequence, even though pregnant CMG2(-/-) mice were able to carry the gestation to full term, they were unable to deliver pups. However, the fully-developed fetuses could be successfully delivered by Cesarean section and survived to adulthood when fostered. Our results demonstrate that CMG2 is not required for normal mouse embryonic development but is indispensable for murine parturition. In parallel to its role in anthrax toxin binding and internalization, herein we provide evidence that CMG2 may function as a collagen receptor which is essential for maintaining collagen homeostasis in the uterus.
NOD-like receptor (NLR) proteins (Nlrps) are cytosolic sensors responsible for detection of pathogen and danger-associated molecular patterns through unknown mechanisms. Their activation in response to a wide range of intracellular danger signals leads to formation of the inflammasome, caspase-1 activation, rapid programmed cell death (pyroptosis) and maturation of IL-1? and IL-18. Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) induces the caspase-1-dependent pyroptosis of mouse and rat macrophages isolated from certain inbred rodent strains through activation of the NOD-like receptor (NLR) Nlrp1 inflammasome. Here we show that LT cleaves rat Nlrp1 and this cleavage is required for toxin-induced inflammasome activation, IL-1 ? release, and macrophage pyroptosis. These results identify both a previously unrecognized mechanism of activation of an NLR and a new, physiologically relevant protein substrate of LT.
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