Detection of nucleic acids using antibodies is uncommon. This is in part because nucleic acids are poor immunogens and it is difficult to elicit antibodies having high affinity to each type of nucleic acid while lacking cross-reactivity to others. We describe the origins and applications of a variety of anti-nucleic acid antibodies, including ones reacting with modified nucleosides and nucleotides, single-stranded DNA, double-stranded DNA, RNA, DNA:RNA hybrids, locked-nucleic acids or peptide nucleic acid:nucleic acid hybrids. Carefully selected antibodies can be excellent reagents for detecting bacteria, viruses, small RNAs, microRNAs, R-loops, cancer cells, stem cells, apoptotic cells and so on. The detection may be sensitive, simple, rapid, specific, reproducible, quantitative and cost-effective. Current microarray and diagnostic methods that depend on cDNA or cRNA can be replaced by using antibody detection of nucleic acids. Therefore, development should be encouraged to explore new utilities and create a robust arsenal of new anti-nucleic acid antibodies.
Bacillus anthracis pXO1 minireplicon (MR) plasmid consisting of open reading frames (ORFs) GBAA_pXO1_0020 to GBAA_pXO1_0023 is not stably maintained in B. anthracis, whereas the full-size parent pXO1 plasmid (having 181,677 bp and 217 ORFs) is extremely stable under the same growth conditions. Two genetic tools developed for DNA manipulation in B. anthracis (Cre-loxP and Flp-FRT systems) were used to identify pXO1 regions important for plasmid stability. We localized a large segment of pXO1 that enables stable plasmid maintenance during vegetative growth. Further genetic analysis identified three genes that are necessary for pXO1 maintenance: amsP (GBAA_pXO1_0069), minP (GBAA_pXO1_0082), and sojP (GBAA_pXO1_0084). Analysis of conserved domains in the corresponding proteins indicated that only AmsP (activator of maintenance system of pXO1) is predicted to bind DNA, due to its strong helix-turn-helix domain. Two conserved domains were found in the MinP protein (Min protein from pXO1): an N-terminal domain having some similarity to the B. anthracis septum site-determining protein MinD and a C-terminal domain that resembles a baculovirus single-stranded-DNA-binding protein. The SojP protein (Soj from pXO1) contains putative Walker box motifs and belongs to the ParA family of ATPases. No sequences encoding other components of type I plasmid partition systems, namely, cis-acting centromere parS and its binding ParB protein, were identified within the pXO1 genome. A model describing the role of the MinP protein in pXO1 distribution between daughter cells is proposed.
The clpC operon is known to regulate several processes such as genetic competence, protein degradation and stress survival in bacteria. Here, we describe the role of clpC operon in Bacillus anthracis. We generated knockout strains of the clpC operon genes to investigate the impact of CtsR, McsA, McsB and ClpC deletion on essential processes of B.?anthracis. We observed that growth, cell division, sporulation and germination were severely affected in mcsB and clpC deleted strains, while none of deletions affected toxin secretion. Growth defect in these strains was pronounced at elevated temperature. The growth pattern gets restored on complementation of mcsB and clpC in respective mutants. Electron microscopic examination revealed that mcsB and clpC deletion also causes defect in septum formation leading to cell elongation. These vegetative cell deformities were accompanied by inability of mutant strains to generate morphologically intact spores. Higher levels of polyhydroxybutyrate granules accumulation were also observed in these deletion strains, indicating a defect in sporulation process. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, the vital role played by McsB and ClpC in physiology of B.?anthracis and open up further interest on this operon, which might be of importance to success of B.?anthracis as pathogen.
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.
We characterized an anti-cancer fusion protein consisting of anthrax lethal factor (LF) and the catalytic domain of Pseudomonas exotoxin A by (i) mutating the N-terminal amino acids and by (ii) reductive methylation to dimethylate all lysines. Dimethylation of lysines was achieved quantitatively and specifically without affecting binding of the fusion protein to PA or decreasing the enzymatic activity of the catalytic moiety. Ubiquitination in vitro was drastically decreased for both the N-terminally mutated and dimethylated variants, and both appeared to be slightly more stable in the cytosol of treated cells. The dimethylated variant showed greatly reduced neutralization by antibodies to LF. The two described modifications offer unique advantages such as increased cytotoxic activity and diminished antibody recognition, and thus may be applicable to other therapeutic proteins that act in the cytosol of cells.
Upon infection of a mammalian host, Bacillus anthracis responds to host cues, and particularly to elevated temperature (37°C) and bicarbonate/CO2 concentrations, with increased expression of virulence factors that include the anthrax toxins and extracellular capsular layer. This response requires the presence of the pXO1 virulence plasmid-encoded pleiotropic regulator AtxA. To better understand the genetic basis of this response, we utilized a controlled in vitro system and Next Generation sequencing to determine and compare RNA expression profiles of the parental strain and an isogenic AtxA-deficient strain in a 2 × 2 factorial design with growth environments containing or lacking carbon dioxide.
Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular parasite that infects a wide range of warm-blooded species. Rats vary in their susceptibility to this parasite. The Toxo1 locus conferring Toxoplasma resistance in rats was previously mapped to a region of chromosome 10 containing Nlrp1. This gene encodes an inflammasome sensor controlling macrophage sensitivity to anthrax lethal toxin (LT) induced rapid cell death (pyroptosis). We show here that rat strain differences in Toxoplasma infected macrophage sensitivity to pyroptosis, IL-1?/IL-18 processing, and inhibition of parasite proliferation are perfectly correlated with NLRP1 sequence, while inversely correlated with sensitivity to anthrax LT-induced cell death. Using recombinant inbred rats, SNP analyses and whole transcriptome gene expression studies, we narrowed the candidate genes for control of Toxoplasma-mediated rat macrophage pyroptosis to four genes, one of which was Nlrp1. Knockdown of Nlrp1 in pyroptosis-sensitive macrophages resulted in higher parasite replication and protection from cell death. Reciprocally, overexpression of the NLRP1 variant from Toxoplasma-sensitive macrophages in pyroptosis-resistant cells led to sensitization of these resistant macrophages. Our findings reveal Toxoplasma as a novel activator of the NLRP1 inflammasome in rat macrophages.
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.
Induction of immunity that limits Toxoplasma gondii infection in mice is critically dependent on the activation of the innate immune response. In this study, we investigated the role of cytoplasmic nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat containing a pyrin domain (NLRP) inflammasome sensors during acute toxoplasmosis in mice. We show that in vitro Toxoplasma infection of murine bone marrow-derived macrophages activates the NLRP3 inflammasome, resulting in the rapid production and cleavage of interleukin-1? (IL-1?), with no measurable cleavage of IL-18 and no pyroptosis. Paradoxically, Toxoplasma-infected mice produced large quantities of IL-18 but had no measurable IL-1? in their serum. Infection of mice deficient in NLRP3, caspase-1/11, IL-1R, or the inflammasome adaptor protein ASC led to decreased levels of circulating IL-18, increased parasite replication, and death. Interestingly, mice deficient in NLRP1 also displayed increased parasite loads and acute mortality. Using mice deficient in IL-18 and IL-18R, we show that this cytokine plays an important role in limiting parasite replication to promote murine survival. Our findings reveal T. gondii as a novel activator of the NLRP1 and NLRP3 inflammasomes in vivo and establish a role for these sensors in host resistance to toxoplasmosis.
Inflammasomes are large cytoplasmic multiprotein complexes that activate caspase-1 in response to diverse intracellular danger signals. Inflammasome components termed nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like receptor (NLR) proteins act as sensors for pathogen-associated molecular patterns, stress, or danger stimuli. We discovered that arsenicals, including arsenic trioxide and sodium arsenite, inhibited activation of the NLRP1, NLRP3, and NAIP5/NLRC4 inflammasomes by their respective activating signals, anthrax lethal toxin, nigericin, and flagellin. These compounds prevented the autoproteolytic activation of caspase-1 and the processing and secretion of IL-1? from macrophages. Inhibition was independent of protein synthesis induction, proteasome-mediated protein breakdown, or kinase signaling pathways. Arsenic trioxide and sodium arsenite did not directly modify or inhibit the activity of preactivated recombinant caspase-1. Rather, they induced a cellular state inhibitory to both the autoproteolytic and substrate cleavage activities of caspase-1, which was reversed by the reactive oxygen species scavenger N-acetylcysteine but not by reducing agents or NO pathway inhibitors. Arsenicals provided protection against NLRP1-dependent anthrax lethal toxin-mediated cell death and prevented NLRP3-dependent neutrophil recruitment in a monosodium urate crystal inflammatory murine peritonitis model. These findings suggest a novel role in inhibition of the innate immune response for arsenical compounds that have been used as therapeutics for a few hundred years.
Anthrax lethal toxin is a classical AB toxin comprised of two components: protective antigen (PA) and lethal factor (LF). Here, we show that following assembly and endocytosis, PA forms a channel that translocates LF, not only into the cytosol, but also into the lumen of endosomal intraluminal vesicles (ILVs). These ILVs can fuse and release LF into the cytosol, where LF can proteolyze and disable host targets. We find that LF can persist in ILVs for days, fully sheltered from proteolytic degradation, both in vitro and in vivo. During this time, ILV-localized LF can be transmitted to daughter cells upon cell division. In addition, LF-containing ILVs can be delivered to the extracellular medium as exosomes. These can deliver LF to the cytosol of naive cells in a manner that is independent of the typical anthrax toxin receptor-mediated trafficking pathway, while being sheltered from neutralizing extracellular factors of the immune system.
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, manifests its pathogenesis through the action of two secreted toxins. The bipartite lethal and edema toxins, a combination of lethal factor or edema factor with the protein protective antigen, are important virulence factors for this bacterium. We previously developed small-molecule inhibitors of lethal factor proteolytic activity (LFIs) and demonstrated their in vivo efficacy in a rat lethal toxin challenge model. In this work, we show that these LFIs protect against lethality caused by anthrax infection in mice when combined with subprotective doses of either antibiotics or neutralizing monoclonal antibodies that target edema factor. Significantly, these inhibitors provided protection against lethal infection when administered as a monotherapy. As little as two doses (10 mg/kg) administered at 2 h and 8 h after spore infection was sufficient to provide a significant survival benefit in infected mice. Administration of LFIs early in the infection was found to inhibit dissemination of vegetative bacteria to the organs in the first 32 h following infection. In addition, neutralizing antibodies against edema factor also inhibited bacterial dissemination with similar efficacy. Together, our findings confirm the important roles that both anthrax toxins play in establishing anthrax infection and demonstrate the potential for small-molecule therapeutics targeting these proteins.
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.
The monoclonal antibody S9.6 binds DNA-RNA hybrids with high affinity, making it useful in research and diagnostic applications, such as in microarrays and in the detection of R-loops. A single-chain variable fragment (scFv) of S9.6 was produced, and its affinities for various synthetic nucleic acid hybrids were measured by surface plasmon resonance (SPR). S9.6 exhibits dissociation constants of approximately 0.6?nM for DNA-RNA and, surprisingly, 2.7?nM for RNA-RNA hybrids that are AU-rich. The affinity of the S9.6 scFv did not appear to be strongly influenced by various buffer conditions or by ionic strength below 500?mM NaCl. The smallest epitope that was strongly bound by the S9.6 scFv contained six base pairs of DNA-RNA hybrid. Published 2013. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.
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.
Signals of danger and damage in the cytosol of cells are sensed by NOD-like receptors (NLRs), which are components of multiprotein complexes called inflammasomes. Inflammasomes activate caspase-1, resulting in IL-1-beta and IL-18 secretion and an inflammatory response. To date, the only known activator of rodent Nlrp1 is anthrax lethal toxin (LT), a protease secreted by the bacterial pathogen Bacillus anthracis. Although susceptibility of mouse macrophages to LT has been genetically linked to Nlrp1b, mice harbor two additional Nlrp1 paralogs in their genomes (Nlrp1a and Nlrp1c). However, little is known about their expression profile and sequence in different mouse strains. Furthermore, simultaneous expression of these paralogs may lead to competitional binding of Nlrp1b interaction partners needed for inflammasome activation, thus influencing macrophages susceptibility to LT. To more completely understand the role(s) of Nlrp1 paralogs in mice, we surveyed for their expression in a large set of LT-resistant and sensitive mouse macrophages. In addition, we provide sequence comparisons for Nlrp1a and report on previously unrecognized splice variants of Nlrp1b.
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.
Bacillus cereus is a spore-forming, Gram-positive bacterium commonly associated with outbreaks of food poisoning. It is also known as an opportunistic pathogen causing clinical infections such as bacteremia, meningitis, pneumonia, and gas gangrene-like cutaneous infections, mostly in immunocompromised patients. B. cereus secretes a plethora of toxins of which four are associated with the symptoms of food poisoning. Two of these, the non-hemolytic enterotoxin Nhe and the hemolysin BL (Hbl) toxin, are predicted to be structurally similar and are unique in that they require the combined action of three toxin proteins to induce cell lysis. Despite their dominant role in disease, the molecular mechanism of their toxic function is still poorly understood. We report here that B. cereus strain ATCC 10876 harbors not only genes encoding Nhe, but also two copies of the hbl genes. We identified Hbl as the major secreted toxin responsible for inducing rapid cell lysis both in cultured cells and in an intraperitoneal mouse toxicity model. Antibody neutralization and deletion of Hbl-encoding genes resulted in significant reductions of cytotoxic activity. Microscopy studies with Chinese Hamster Ovary cells furthermore showed that pore formation by both Hbl and Nhe occurs through a stepwise, sequential binding of toxin components to the cell surface and to each other. This begins with binding of Hbl-B or NheC to the eukaryotic membrane, and is followed by the recruitment of Hbl-L1 or NheB, respectively, followed by the corresponding third protein. Lastly, toxin component complementation studies indicate that although Hbl and Nhe can be expressed simultaneously and are predicted to be structurally similar, they are incompatible and cannot complement each other.
Anthrax edema factor (EF) is a calmodulin-dependent adenylate cyclase that converts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) into 3-5-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), contributing to the establishment of Bacillus anthracis infections and the resulting pathophysiology. We show that EF adenylate cyclase toxin activity is strongly mediated by the N-end rule, and thus is dependent on the identity of the N-terminal amino acid. EF variants having different N-terminal residues varied by more than 100-fold in potency in cultured cells and mice. EF variants having unfavorable, destabilizing N-terminal residues showed much greater activity in cells when the E1 ubiquitin ligase was inactivated or when proteasome inhibitors were present. Taken together, these results show that EF is uniquely affected by ubiquitination and/or proteasomal degradation.
A phase 1 study of a recombinant mutant protective antigen (rPA) vaccine was conducted in 186 healthy adults aged 18 to 45 years. Volunteers were randomized to receive one of three formulations of rPA (formalin treated, alum adsorbed, or both), in 10- or 20-?g dosages each, or the licensed vaccine, AVA. Three injections were given at 2-month intervals and a 4th 1 year after the 3rd. Vaccinees were examined at the clinic once following each injection, at 48 to 72 h postinjection. Adverse reactions were recorded in diaries for 7 days. Sera were collected before each injection and 1 week after the 1st, 2 weeks after the 3rd and 4th, and 1 year after the 4th. Serum anti-PA IgG was assayed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and toxin neutralization assay (TNA). All formulations at both dosages were safe and immunogenic, inducing booster responses, with the highest antibody levels following the 4th injection (354 to 732 ?g/ml). The lowest levels were induced by the formalin-only-treated rPA; there was no statistical difference between levels induced by alum-adsorbed and formalin-treated/alum-adsorbed rPA or by the two dosages. The antibody levels declined in all groups during the 1-year intervals after the 3rd and 4th injections but less so during the 2nd year, after the 4th injection (fold decreases were 10 to 25 versus 3.4 to 7.0, P < 0.001). There were too few AVA recipients for statistical comparisons, but their antibody levels followed those of rPA. Anti-rPA measured by ELISA correlated with TNA titers (r = 0.97). These data support studying alum-adsorbed rPA in children.
Bacterial lipoproteins play a crucial role in virulence in some gram-positive bacteria. However, the role of lipoprotein biosynthesis in Bacillus anthracis is unknown. We created a B. anthracis mutant strain altered in lipoproteins by deleting the lgt gene encoding the enzyme prolipoprotein diacylglyceryl transferase, which attaches the lipid anchor to prolipoproteins. (14)C-palmitate labelling confirmed that the mutant strain lacked lipoproteins, and hydrocarbon partitioning showed it to have decreased surface hydrophobicity. The anthrax toxin proteins were secreted from the mutant strain at nearly the same levels as from the wild-type strain. The TLR2-dependent TNF-? response of macrophages to heat-killed lgt mutant bacteria was reduced. Spores of the lgt mutant germinated inefficiently in vitro and in mouse skin. As a result, in a murine subcutaneous infection model, lgt mutant spores had markedly attenuated virulence. In contrast, vegetative cells of the lgt mutant were as virulent as those of the wild-type strain. Thus, lipoprotein biosynthesis in B. anthracis is required for full virulence in a murine infection model.
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.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT), a major virulence determinant of anthrax disease, induces vascular collapse in mice and rats. LT activates the Nlrp1 inflammasome in macrophages and dendritic cells, resulting in caspase-1 activation, IL-1? and IL-18 maturation and a rapid cell death (pyroptosis). This review presents the current understanding of LT-induced activation of Nlrp1 in cells and its consequences for toxin-mediated effects in rodent toxin and spore challenge models.
Bacillus anthracis is a spore-forming, soil-dwelling bacterium. This review describes the occurrence of spontaneous mutations leading to loss of sporulation and the selective pressures that can lead to their enrichment. We also discuss recognition of the associated phenotypes on solid medium, thereby allowing researchers to employ measures that either prevent or favor selection of sporulation-deficient mutants.
Bacillus anthracis is the causative agent of anthrax, and the tripartite anthrax toxin is an essential element of its pathogenesis. Edema factor (EF), a potent adenylyl cyclase, is one of the toxin components. In this work, anti-EF monoclonal antibodies (MAb) were produced following immunization of mice, and four of the antibodies were fully characterized. MAb 3F2 has an affinity of 388 pM, was most effective for EF detection, and appears to be the first antibody reported to neutralize EF by binding to the catalytic C(B) domain. MAb 7F10 shows potent neutralization of edema toxin activity in vitro and in vivo; it targets the N-terminal protective antigen binding domain. The four MAb react with three different domains of edema factor, and all were able to detect purified edema factor in Western blot analysis. None of the four MAb cross-reacted with the lethal factor toxin component. Three of the four MAb protected mice in both a systemic edema toxin challenge model and a subcutaneous spore-induced foreleg edema model. A combination of three of the MAb also significantly delayed the time to death in a third subcutaneous spore challenge model. This appears to be the first direct evidence that monoclonal antibody-mediated neutralization of EF alone is sufficient to delay anthrax disease progression.
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, is poorly transformed with DNA that is methylated on adenine or cytosine. Here we characterize three genetic loci encoding type IV methylation-dependent restriction enzymes that target DNA containing C5-methylcytosine (m5C). Strains in which these genes were inactivated, either singly or collectively, showed increased transformation by methylated DNA. Additionally, a triple mutant with an ~30-kb genomic deletion could be transformed by DNA obtained from Dam(+)Dcm(+)E. coli, although at a low frequency of ~10(-3) transformants/10(6)cfu. This strain of B. anthracis can potentially serve as a preferred host for shuttle vectors that express recombinant proteins, including proteins to be used in vaccines. The gene(s) responsible for the restriction of m6A-containing DNA in B. anthracis remain unidentified, and we suggest that poor transformation by such DNA could in part be a consequence of the inefficient replication of hemimethylated DNA in B. anthracis.
Bacillus anthracis produces a number of extracellular proteases that impact the integrity and yield of other proteins in the B. anthracis secretome. In this study we show that anthrolysin O (ALO) and the three anthrax toxin proteins, protective antigen (PA), lethal factor (LF), and edema factor (EF), produced from the B. anthracis Ames 35 strain (pXO1?, pXO2?), are completely degraded at the onset of stationary phase due to the action of proteases. An improved Cre-loxP gene knockout system was used to sequentially delete the genes encoding six proteases (InhA1, InhA2, camelysin, TasA, NprB, and MmpZ). The role of each protease in degradation of the B. anthracis toxin components and ALO was demonstrated. Levels of the anthrax toxin components and ALO in the supernatant of the sporulation defective, pXO1? A35HMS mutant strain deleted for the six proteases were significantly increased and remained stable over 24 h. A pXO1-free variant of this six-protease mutant strain, designated BH460, provides an improved host strain for the preparation of recombinant proteins. As an example, BH460 was used to produce recombinant EF, which previously has been difficult to obtain from B. anthracis. The EF protein produced from BH460 had the highest in vivo potency of any EF previously purified from B. anthracis or Escherichia coli hosts. BH460 is recommended as an effective host strain for recombinant protein production, typically yielding greater than 10mg pure protein per liter of culture.
W1-mAb is a chimpanzee-derived monoclonal antibody to protective antigen that improved survival when administered before anthrax lethal toxin challenge in rats. To better define W1-mAbs efficacy for anthrax, we administered it after initiation of 24-hr infusions of edema toxin and lethal toxin either alone or together in rats or following anthrax spore challenge in mice.
New anthrax lethal factor inhibitors (LFIs) were designed based upon previously identified potent inhibitors 1a and 2. Combining the new core structures with modifications to the C2-side chain yielded analogs with improved efficacy in the rat lethal toxin model.
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.
While anthrax edema toxin produces pronounced tachycardia and lethal toxin depresses left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction in in vivo models, whether these changes reflect direct cardiac effects as opposed to indirect ones related to preload or afterload alterations is unclear. In the present study, the effects of edema toxin and lethal toxin were investigated in a constant pressure isolated perfused rat heart model. Compared with control hearts, edema toxin at doses comparable to or less than a dose that produced an 80% lethality rate (LD(80)) in vivo in rats (200, 100, and 50 ng/ml) produced rapid increases in heart rate (HR), coronary flow (CF), LV developed pressure (LVDP), dP/dt(max), and rate-pressure product (RPP) that were most pronounced and persisted with the lowest dose (P ? 0.003). Edema toxin (50 ng/ml) increased effluent and myocardial cAMP levels (P ? 0.002). Compared with dobutamine, edema toxin produced similar myocardial changes, but these occurred more slowly and persisted longer. Increases in HR, CF, and cAMP with edema toxin were inhibited by a monoclonal antibody blocking toxin uptake and by adefovir, which inhibits the toxins intracellular adenyl cyclase activity (P ? 0.05). Lethal toxin at an LD(80) dose (50 ng/ml) had no significant effect on heart function but a much higher dose (500 ng/ml) reduced all parameters (P ? 0.05). In conclusion, edema toxin produced cAMP-mediated myocardial chronotropic, inotropic, and vasodilatory effects. Vasodilation systemically with edema toxin could contribute to shock during anthrax while masking potential inotropic effects. Although lethal toxin produced myocardial depression, this only occurred at high doses, and its relevance to in vivo findings is unclear.
One of the two essential virulence factors of Bacillus anthracis is the poly-?-D-glutamic acid (?DPGA) capsule. Five ?DPGA-specific antibody antigen-binding fragments (Fabs) were generated from immunized chimpanzees. The two selected for further study, Fabs 11D and 4C, were both converted into full-length IgG1 and IgG3 mAbs having human IgG1 or IgG3 constant regions. These two mAbs had similar binding affinities, in vitro opsonophagocytic activities, and in vivo efficacies, with the IgG1 and IgG3 subclasses reacting similarly. The mAbs bound to ?DPGA specifically with estimated binding affinities (K(d)) of 35-70 nM and effective affinities (effective K(d)) of 0.1-0.3 nM. The LD(50) in an opsonophagocytic bactericidal assay was ?10 ng/mL of 11D or 4C. A single 30-?g dose of either mAb given to BALB/c mice 18 h before challenge conferred about 50% protection against a lethal intratracheal spore challenge by the virulent B. anthracis Ames strain. More importantly, either mAb given 8 h or 20 h after challenge provided significant protection against lethal infection. Thus, these anti-?DPGA mAbs should be useful, alone or in combination with antitoxin mAbs, for achieving a safe and efficacious postexposure therapy for anthrax.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) is the major virulence factor for Bacillus anthracis. The lethal factor (LF) component of this bipartite toxin is a protease which, when transported into the cellular cytoplasm, cleaves mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) family proteins and induces rapid toxicity in mouse macrophages through activation of the Nlrp1b inflammasome. A high-throughput screen was performed to identify synergistic LT-inhibitory drug combinations from within a library of approved drugs and molecular probes. From this screen we discovered that auranofin, an organogold compound with anti-inflammatory activity, strongly inhibited LT-mediated toxicity in mouse macrophages. Auranofin did not inhibit toxin transport into cells or MEK cleavage but inhibited both LT-mediated caspase-1 activation and caspase-1 catalytic activity. Thus, auranofin inhibited LT-mediated toxicity by preventing activation of the Nlrp1b inflammasome and the downstream actions that occur in response to the toxin. Idebenone, an analog of coenzyme Q, synergized with auranofin to increase its protective effect. We found that idebenone functions as an inhibitor of voltage-gated potassium channels and thus likely mediates synergy through inhibition of the potassium fluxes which have been shown to be required for Nlrp1b inflammasome activation.
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.
We have shown that intranasal coapplication of Bacillus anthracis protective Ag (PA) together with a B. anthracis edema factor (EF) mutant having reduced adenylate cyclase activity (i.e., EF-S414N) enhances anti-PA Ab responses, but also acts as a mucosal adjuvant for coadministered unrelated Ags. To elucidate the role of edema toxin (EdTx) components in its adjuvanticity, we examined how a PA mutant lacking the ability to bind EF (PA-U7) or another mutant that allows the cellular uptake of EF, but fails to efficiently mediate its translocation into the cytosol (PA-dFF), would affect EdTx-induced adaptive immunity. Native EdTx promotes costimulatory molecule expression by macrophages and B lymphocytes, and a broad spectrum of cytokine responses by cervical lymph node cells in vitro. These effects were reduced or abrogated when cells were treated with EF plus PA-dFF, or PA-U7 instead of PA. We also intranasally immunized groups of mice with a recombinant fusion protein of Yersinia pestis F1 and LcrV Ags (F1-V) together with EdTx variants consisting of wild-type or mutants PA and EF. Analysis of serum and mucosal Ab responses against F1-V or EdTx components (i.e., PA and EF) revealed no adjuvant activity in mice that received PA-U7 instead of PA. In contrast, coimmunization with PA-dFF enhanced serum Ab responses. Finally, immunization with native PA and an EF mutant lacking adenylate cyclase activity (EF-K346R) failed to enhance Ab responses. In summary, a fully functional PA and a minimum of adenylate cyclase activity are needed for EdTx to act as a mucosal adjuvant.
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.
Many genes in Bacillus cereus and Bacillus thuringiensis are under the control of the transcriptional regulator PlcR and its regulatory peptide, PapR. In Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, PlcR is inactivated by truncation, and consequently genes having PlcR binding sites are expressed at very low levels when compared with B. cereus. We found that activation of the PlcR regulon in B. anthracis by expression of a PlcR-PapR fusion protein does not alter sporulation in strains containing the virulence plasmid pXO1 and thereby the global regulator AtxA. Using comparative 2D gel electrophoresis, we showed that activation of the PlcR regulon in B. anthracis leads to upregulation of many proteins found in the secretome of B. cereus, including phospholipases and proteases, such as the putative protease BA1995. Transcriptional analysis demonstrated expression of BA1995 to be dependent on PlcR-PapR, even though the putative PlcR recognition site of the BA1995 gene does not exactly match the PlcR consensus sequence, explaining why this protein had escaped recognition as belonging to the PlcR regulon. Additionally, while transcription of major PlcR-dependent haemolysins, sphingomyelinase and anthrolysin O is enhanced in response to PlcR activation in B. anthracis, only anthrolysin O contributes significantly to lysis of human erythrocytes. In contrast, the toxicity of bacterial culture supernatants from a PlcR-positive strain towards murine macrophages occurred independently of anthrolysin O expression in vitro and in vivo.
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 tripartite protein exotoxin secreted by Bacillus anthracis, a major contributor to its virulence and anthrax pathogenesis, consists of binary complexes of the protective antigen (PA) heptamer (PA63h), produced by proteolytic cleavage of PA, together with either lethal factor or edema factor. The mouse monoclonal anti-PA antibody 1G3 was previously shown to be a potent antidote that shares F(C) domain dependency with the human monoclonal antibody MDX-1303 currently under clinical development. Here we demonstrate that 1G3 instigates severe perturbation of the PA63h structure and creates a PA supercomplex as visualized by electron microscopy. This phenotype, produced by the unconventional mode of antibody action, highlights the feasibility for optimization of vaccines based on analogous structural modification of PA63h as an additional strategy for future remedies against anthrax.
We demonstrate the frequent accidental enrichment of spontaneous sporulation-deficient mutants of Bacillus anthracis on solid medium and identify contributing factors. Mutations in spo0A, encoding the master regulator of sporulation initiation, were found in 38 of 53 mutants. Transductions using bacteriophage CP51 propagated on sporogenic bacteria allowed for the restoration of sporulation phenotypes.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) is an important virulence factor for Bacillus anthracis. In mice, LT lyses macrophages from certain inbred strains in less than 2h by activating the Nlrp1b inflammasome and caspase-1, while macrophages from other strains remain resistant to the toxins effects. We analyzed LT effects in toxin-sensitive and resistant rat macrophages to test if a similar pathway was involved in rat macrophage death. LT activates caspase-1 in rat macrophages from strains harboring LT-sensitive macrophages in a manner similar to that in toxin-sensitive murine macrophages. This activation of caspase-1 is dependent on proteasome activity, and sensitive macrophages are protected from LTs lytic effects by lactacystin. Proteasome inhibition also delayed the death of rats in response to LT, confirming our previous data implicating the rat Nlrp1 inflammasome in animal death. Quinidine, caspase-1 inhibitors, the cathepsin B inhibitor CA-074Me, and heat shock also protected rat macrophages from LT toxicity. These data support the existence of an active functioning LT-responsive Nlrp1 inflammasome in rat macrophages. The activation of the rat Nlrp1 inflammasome is required for LT-mediated rat macrophage lysis and contributes to animal death.
Sub-nanomolar small molecule inhibitors of anthrax lethal factor have been identified using SAR and Merck L915 (4) as a model compound. One of these compounds (16) provided 100% protection in a rat lethal toxin model of anthrax disease.
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.
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.
To initiate infection, Bacillus anthracis needs to overcome the host innate immune system. Anthrax toxin, a major virulence factor of B. anthracis, impairs both the innate and adaptive immune systems and is important in the establishment of anthrax infections.
This study describes the isolation and characterization of a neutralizing monoclonal antibody (mAb) against anthrax edema factor, EF13D. EF13D neutralized edema toxin (ET)-mediated cyclic AMP (cAMP) responses in cells and protected mice from both ET-induced footpad edema and systemic ET-mediated lethality. The antibody epitope was mapped to domain IV of EF. The mAb was able to compete with calmodulin (CaM) for EF binding and displaced CaM from EF-CaM complexes. EF-mAb binding affinity (0.05-0.12 nM) was 50- to 130-fold higher than that reported for EF-CaM. This anti-EF neutralizing mAb could potentially be used alone or with an anti-PA mAb in the emergency prophylaxis and treatment of anthrax infection.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) activates the NLRP1b (NALP1b) inflammasome and caspase-1 in macrophages from certain inbred mouse strains, but the mechanism by which this occurs is poorly understood. We report here that similar to several NLRP3 (NALP3, cryopyrin)-activating stimuli, LT activation of the NLRP1b inflammasome involves lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) and subsequent cytoplasmic cathepsin B activity. CA-074Me, a potent cathepsin B inhibitor, protects LT-sensitive macrophages from cell death and prevents the activation of caspase-1. RNA interference knockdown of cathepsin B expression, however, cannot prevent LT-mediated cell death, suggesting that CA-074Me may also act on other cellular proteases released during LMP. CA-074Me appears to function downstream of LT translocation to the cytosol (as assessed by mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase cleavage), K(+) effluxes, and proteasome activity. The initial increase in cytoplasmic activity of cathepsin B occurs at the same time or shortly before caspase-1 activation but precedes a larger-scale lysosomal destabilization correlated closely with cytolysis. We present results suggesting that LMP may be involved in the activation of the NLRP1b inflammasome.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) and edema toxin (ET) are the major virulence factors of anthrax and can replicate the lethality and symptoms associated with the disease. This review provides an overview of our current understanding of anthrax toxin effects in animal models and the cytotoxicity (necrosis and apoptosis) induced by LT in different cells. A brief reexamination of early historic findings on toxin in vivo effects in the context of our current knowledge is also presented.
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.
Three chimpanzee Fabs reactive with lethal factor (LF) of anthrax toxin were isolated and converted into complete monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) with human gamma1 heavy-chain constant regions. In a macrophage toxicity assay, two of the MAbs, LF10E and LF11H, neutralized lethal toxin (LT), a complex of LF and anthrax protective antigen (PA). LF10E has the highest reported affinity for a neutralizing MAb against LF (dissociation constant of 0.69 nM). This antibody also efficiently neutralized LT in vitro, with a 50% effective concentration (EC(50)) of 0.1 nM, and provided 100% protection of rats against toxin challenge with a 0.5 submolar ratio relative to LT. LF11H, on the other hand, had a slightly lower binding affinity to LF (dissociation constant of 7.4 nM) and poor neutralization of LT in vitro (EC(50) of 400 nM) and offered complete protection in vivo only at an equimolar or higher ratio to toxin. Despite this, LF11H, but not LF10E, provided robust synergistic protection when combined with MAb W1, which neutralizes PA. Epitope mapping and binding assays indicated that both LF10E and LF11H recognize domain I of LF (amino acids 1 to 254). Although domain I is responsible for binding to PA, neither MAb prevented LF from binding to activated PA. Although two unique MAbs could protect against anthrax when used alone, even more efficient and broader protection should be gained by combining them with anti-PA MAbs.
An 8,883-bp mini-pXO1 plasmid containing a replicon from Bacillus anthracis pXO1 (181.6 kb) was identified by making large deletions in the original plasmid using a newly developed Cre-loxP system. Portions of the truncated mini-pXO1 were cloned into an Escherichia coli vector unable to replicate in B. anthracis. A 5.95-kb region encompassing three putative genes was identified as the minimal pXO1 fragment required for replication of the resulting recombinant shuttle plasmid (named pMR) in B. anthracis. Deletion analysis showed that the only genes essential for replication were the pXO1-14 and pXO1-16 genes, which are transcribed in opposite directions and encode predicted proteins of 66.5 and 67.1 kDa, respectively. The ORF14 protein contains a helix-turn-helix motif, while the ORF16 upstream region contains attributes of a theta-replicating plasmid origin of replication (Ori), namely, an exclusively A+T-containing segment, five 9-bp direct repeats, an inverted repeat, and a sigma(A)-dependent promoter for the putative replication initiator Rep protein (ORF16). Spontaneous mutations generated in the ORF14, ORF16, and Ori regions of pMR during PCR amplification produced a temperature-sensitive plasmid that is unable to replicate in B. anthracis at 37 degrees C. The efficacy of transformation of plasmid-free B. anthracis Ames and Sterne strains by the original pMR was approximately 10(3) CFU/microg, while Bacillus cereus strains 569 and ATCC 10987 were transformed with efficiencies of 10(4) and 10(2) CFU/microg, respectively. Around 95% of B. anthracis cells retained pMR after one round of sporulation and germination.
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.
Infection by Bacillus anthracis in animals and humans results from accidental or intentional exposure, by oral, cutaneous or pulmonary routes, to spores, which are normally present in the soil. Treatment includes administration of antibiotics, vaccination or treatment with antibody to the toxin. A better understanding of the molecular basis of the processes involved in the pathogenesis of anthrax namely, spore germination in macrophages and biological effects of the secreted toxins on heart and blood vessels will lead to improved management of infected animals and patients. Controlling germination will be feasible by inhibiting macrophage paralysis and cell death. On the other hand, the control of terminal hypotension might be achieved by inhibition of cardiomyocyte mitogen-activated protein kinase and stimulation of vessel cAMP.
The response of anthrax lethal toxin (LeTx) induced shock and lethality to conventional therapies has received little study. Previously, fluids worsened outcome in LeTx-challenged rats in contrast to its benefit with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or Escherichia coli. The current study investigated norepinephrine treatment.
Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) induces vascular insufficiency in experimental animals through unknown mechanisms. In this study, we show that neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) deficiency in mice causes strikingly increased sensitivity to LT, while deficiencies in the two other NOS enzymes (iNOS and eNOS) have no effect on LT-mediated mortality. The increased sensitivity of nNOS-/- mice was independent of macrophage sensitivity to toxin, or cytokine responses, and could be replicated in nNOS-sufficient wild-type (WT) mice through pharmacological inhibition of the enzyme with 7-nitroindazole. Histopathological analyses showed that LT induced architectural changes in heart morphology of nNOS-/- mice, with rapid appearance of novel inter-fiber spaces but no associated apoptosis of cardiomyocytes. LT-treated WT mice had no histopathology observed at the light microscopy level. Electron microscopic analyses of LT-treated mice, however, revealed striking pathological changes in the hearts of both nNOS-/- and WT mice, varying only in severity and timing. Endothelial/capillary necrosis and degeneration, inter-myocyte edema, myofilament and mitochondrial degeneration, and altered sarcoplasmic reticulum cisternae were observed in both LT-treated WT and nNOS-/- mice. Furthermore, multiple biomarkers of cardiac injury (myoglobin, cardiac troponin-I, and heart fatty acid binding protein) were elevated in LT-treated mice very rapidly (by 6 h after LT injection) and reached concentrations rarely reported in mice. Cardiac protective nitrite therapy and allopurinol therapy did not have beneficial effects in LT-treated mice. Surprisingly, the potent nitric oxide scavenger, carboxy-PTIO, showed some protective effect against LT. Echocardiography on LT-treated mice indicated an average reduction in ejection fraction following LT treatment in both nNOS-/- and WT mice, indicative of decreased contractile function in the heart. We report the heart as an early target of LT in mice and discuss a protective role for nNOS against LT-mediated cardiac damage.
Fluorescent proteins have wide applications in biology. However, not all of these proteins are properly expressed in bacteria, especially if the codon usage and genomic GC content of the host organism are not ideal for high expression. In this study, we analyzed the DNA sequences of multiple fluorescent protein genes with respect to codons and GC content and compared them to a low-GC gram-positive bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. We found high discrepancies for cyan fluorescent protein (CFP), yellow fluorescent protein (YFP), and the photoactivatable green fluorescent protein (PAGFP), but not GFP, with regard to GC content and codon usage. Concomitantly, when the proteins were expressed in B. anthracis, CFP- and YFP-derived fluorescence was undetectable microscopically, a phenomenon caused not by lack of gene transcription or degradation of the proteins but by lack of protein expression. To improve expression in bacteria with low genomic GC contents, we synthesized a codon-optimized gfp and constructed optimized photoactivatable pagfp, cfp, and yfp, which were in contrast to nonoptimized genes highly expressed in B. anthracis and in another low-GC gram-positive bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus. Using optimized GFP as a reporter, we were able to monitor the activity of the protective antigen promoter of B. anthracis and confirm its dependence on bicarbonate and regulators present on virulence plasmid pXO1.
The global transcriptional regulator PlcR controls gene expression in Bacillus cereus and Bacillus thuringiensis. Activity of PlcR is regulated by PapR, the product of an ORF located immediately downstream of plcR. To be active in B. cereus, PapR must be secreted and then processed to the mature peptide by an unknown protease. This peptide is transported by an oligopeptide permease into the cell, where it activates PlcR. In this study, we show that the neutral protease B (NprB) secreted by B. cereus 569 is required for extracellular PapR maturation. Purified recombinant NprB processed the synthetic PapR propeptide to produce a set of peptides derived from the C-terminal domain of PapR. Supplementation of growth media with synthetic PapR-derived C-terminal 5-, 7-, 8- and 27-amino acid (aa) peptides caused activation of intracellular PlcR in a PapR-deficient strain of B. cereus 569 while only the 5- and 7-aa peptides activated PlcR in a nprB mutant. The maximum activity was found for the 7-mer peptide. However, even the 7-mer peptide could not activate PlcR with a C-terminal truncation of as few as 6 aa. This indicates that interactions of the C-terminal regions of both PlcR and PapR are important in transcriptional activation of the B. cereus 569 PlcR regulon.
We developed a europium nanoparticle-based immunoassay (ENIA) for the sensitive detection of anthrax protective antigen (PA). The ENIA exhibited a linear dose-dependent pattern within the detection range of 0.01 to 100 ng/ml and was approximately 100-fold more sensitive than enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). False-positive results were not observed with serum samples from healthy adults, mouse plasma without PA, or plasma samples collected from mice injected with anthrax lethal factor or edema factor alone. For the detection of plasma samples spiked with PA, the detection sensitivities for ENIA and ELISA were 100% (11/11 samples) and 36.4% (4/11 samples), respectively. The assay exhibited a linear but qualitative correlation between the PA injected and the PA detected in murine blood (r=0.97731; P<0.0001). Anthrax PA was also detected in the circulation of mice infected with spores from a toxigenic Sterne-like strain of Bacillus anthracis, but only in the later stages of infection. These results indicate that the universal labeling technology based on europium nanoparticles and its application may provide a rapid and sensitive testing platform for clinical diagnosis and laboratory research.
We describe a novel hybrid anthrax toxin approach that incorporates multiple components into a single vaccine product. The key domains of protective antigen (PA) and lethal factor (LF) that may be critical for inducing protective immunity are combined into one recombinant molecule. Two LF N-terminal domain-PA hybrids, one with wild-type PA and another with furin cleavage-minus PA, were expressed in E. coli and purified in a native form. Both the hybrids bind to the extracellular domain of the host receptor, CMG2; the wild-type hybrid can be cleaved by furin exposing the LF interacting domain, allowing it to oligomerize into lethal toxin as well as translocation pore-like complexes. The hybrid antigens are immunogenic in Dutch-belted rabbits, eliciting strong PA-specific and LF-specific antibodies. However, the lethal toxin neutralizing antibody titers are 3-7 times lower than those elicited by PA-alum. The hybrid antigens conferred 100% (6/6) protection in rabbits challenged intranasally with a 100 LD(50) dose of Bacillus anthracis Ames strain spores.
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.
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