Project description:Ricin toxin's enzymatic subunit (RTA) has been subjected to intensive B cell epitope mapping studies using a combination of competition ELISAs, hydrogen exchange-mass spectrometry and X-ray crystallography. Those studies identified four spatially distinct clusters (I-IV) of toxin-neutralizing epitopes on the surface of RTA. Here we describe A9, a new single domain camelid antibody (VHH) that was proposed to recognize a novel epitope on RTA that straddles clusters I and III. The X-ray crystal structure of A9 bound to RTA (2.6 Å resolution) revealed extensive antibody contact with RTA's ?-strand h (732 Å2 buried surface area; BSA), along with limited engagement with ?-helix D (90 Å2) and ?-helix C (138 Å2). Collectively, these contacts explain the overlap between epitope clusters I and III, as identified by competition ELISA. However, considerable binding affinity, and, consequently, toxin-neutralizing activity of A9 is mediated by an unusual CDR2 containing five consecutive Gly residues that interact with ?-helix B (82 Å2), a known neutralizing hotspot on RTA. Removal of a single Gly residue from the penta-glycine stretch in CDR2 reduced A9's binding affinity by 10-fold and eliminated toxin-neutralizing activity. Computational modeling indicates that removal of a Gly from CDR2 does not perturb contact with RTA per se, but results in the loss of an intramolecular hydrogen bond network involved in stabilizing CDR2 in the unbound state. These results reveal a novel configuration of a CDR2 element involved in neutralizing ricin toxin.
Project description:Ricin toxin is a heterodimer consisting of RTA, a ribosome-inactivating protein, and RTB, a lectin that facilitates receptor-mediated uptake into mammalian cells. In previous studies, we demonstrated that toxin-neutralizing antibodies target four spatially distinct hot spots on RTA, which we refer to as epitope clusters I-IV. In this report, we identified and characterized three single domain camelid antibodies (VHH) against cluster II. One of these VHHs, V5E1, ranks as one of the most potent ricin-neutralizing antibodies described to date. We solved the X-ray crystal structures of each of the three VHHs (E1, V1C7, and V5E1) in complex with RTA. V5E1 buries a total of 1,133 Å2 of surface area on RTA and makes primary contacts with ?-helix A (residues 18-32), ?-helix F (182-194), as well as the F-G loop. V5E1, by virtue of complementarity determining region 3 (CDR3), may also engage with RTB and potentially interfere with the high affinity galactose-recognition element that plays a critical role in toxin attachment to cell surfaces and intracellular trafficking. The two other VHHs, E1 and V1C7, bind epitopes adjacent to V5E1 but display only weak toxin neutralizing activity, thereby providing structural insights into specific residues within cluster II that may be critical contact points for toxin inactivation.
Project description:Ricin is a select agent toxin and a member of the RNA N-glycosidase family of medically important plant and bacterial ribosome-inactivating proteins. In this study, we determined X-ray crystal structures of the enzymatic subunit of ricin (RTA) in complex with the antigen binding domains (VHH) of five unique single-chain monoclonal antibodies that differ in their respective toxin-neutralizing activities. None of the VHHs made direct contact with residues involved in RTA's RNA N-glycosidase activity or induced notable allosteric changes in the toxin's subunit. Rather, the five VHHs had overlapping structural epitopes on the surface of the toxin and differed in the degree to which they made contact with prominent structural elements in two folding domains of the RTA. In general, RTA interactions were influenced most by the VHH CDR3 (CDR, complementarity-determining region) elements, with the most potent neutralizing antibody having the shortest and most conformationally constrained CDR3. These structures provide unique insights into the mechanisms underlying toxin neutralization and provide critically important information required for the rational design of ricin toxin subunit vaccines.
Project description:We previously produced a heavy-chain-only antibody (Ab) VH domain (VHH)-displayed phage library from two alpacas that had been immunized with ricin toxoid and nontoxic mixtures of the enzymatic ricin toxin A subunit (RTA) and binding ricin toxin B subunit (RTB) (D. J. Vance, J. M. Tremblay, N. J. Mantis, and C. B. Shoemaker, J Biol Chem 288:36538-36547, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M113.519207). Initial and subsequent screens of that library by direct enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) yielded more than two dozen unique RTA- and RTB-specific VHHs, including 10 whose structures were subsequently solved in complex with RTA. To generate a more complete antigenic map of ricin toxin and to define the epitopes associated with toxin-neutralizing activity, we subjected the VHH-displayed phage library to additional "pannings" on both receptor-bound ricin and antibody-captured ricin. We now report the full-length DNA sequences, binding affinities, and neutralizing activities of 68 unique VHHs: 31 against RTA, 33 against RTB, and 4 against ricin holotoxin. Epitope positioning was achieved through cross-competition ELISAs performed with a panel of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) and verified, in some instances, with hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry. The 68 VHHs grouped into more than 20 different competition bins. The RTA-specific VHHs with strong toxin-neutralizing activities were confined to bins that overlapped two previously identified neutralizing hot spots, termed clusters I and II. The four RTB-specific VHHs with potent toxin-neutralizing activity grouped within three adjacent bins situated at the RTA-RTB interface near cluster II. These results provide important insights into epitope interrelationships on the surface of ricin and delineate regions of vulnerability that can be exploited for the purpose of vaccine and therapeutic development.
Project description:RiVax is a promising recombinant ricin toxin A subunit (RTA) vaccine antigen that has been shown to be safe and immunogenic in humans and effective at protecting rhesus macaques against lethal-dose aerosolized toxin exposure. We previously used a panel of RTA-specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to demonstrate, by competition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), that RiVax elicits similar serum antibody profiles in humans and macaques. However, the MAb binding sites on RiVax have yet to be defined. In this study, we employed hydrogen exchange-mass spectrometry (HX-MS) to localize the epitopes on RiVax recognized by nine toxin-neutralizing MAbs and one nonneutralizing MAb. Based on strong protection from hydrogen exchange, the nine MAbs grouped into four spatially distinct epitope clusters (namely, clusters I to IV). Cluster I MAbs protected RiVax's ?-helix B (residues 94 to 107), a protruding immunodominant secondary structure element known to be a target of potent toxin-neutralizing antibodies. Cluster II consisted of two subclusters located on the "back side" (relative to the active site pocket) of RiVax. One subcluster involved ?-helix A (residues 14 to 24) and ?-helices F-G (residues 184 to 207); the other encompassed ?-strand d (residues 62 to 69) and parts of ?-helices D-E (154 to 164) and the intervening loop. Cluster III involved ?-helices C and G on the front side of RiVax, while cluster IV formed a sash from the front to back of RiVax, spanning strands b, c, and d (residues 35 to 59). Having a high-resolution B cell epitope map of RiVax will enable the development and optimization of competitive serum profiling assays to examine vaccine-induced antibody responses across species.
Project description:Numerous neutralizing antibodies that target SARS-CoV-2 have been reported, and most directly block binding of the viral Spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) to angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2). Here, we deliberately exploit non-neutralizing RBD antibodies, showing they can dramatically assist in neutralization when linked to neutralizing binders. We identified antigen-binding fragments (Fabs) by phage display that bind RBD, but do not block ACE2 or neutralize virus as IgGs. When these non-neutralizing Fabs were assembled into bispecific VH/Fab IgGs with a neutralizing VH domain, we observed a ~ 25-fold potency improvement in neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 compared to the mono-specific bi-valent VH-Fc alone or the cocktail of the VH-Fc and IgG. This effect was epitope-dependent, reflecting the unique geometry of the bispecific antibody toward Spike. Our results show that a bispecific antibody that combines both neutralizing and non-neutralizing epitopes on Spike-RBD is a promising and rapid engineering strategy to improve the potency of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.
Project description:Efforts to develop a vaccine for ricin toxin are focused on identifying highly immunogenic, safe, and thermostable recombinant derivatives of ricin's enzymatic A subunit (RTA). As a means to guide vaccine design, we have embarked on an effort to generate a comprehensive neutralizing and non-neutralizing B cell epitope map of RTA. In a series of previous studies, we identified three spatially distinct linear (continuous), neutralizing epitopes on RTA, as defined by monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) PB10 (and R70), SyH7, and GD12. In this report we now describe a new collection of 19 toxin-neutralizing mAbs that bind non-linear epitopes on RTA. The most potent toxin-neutralizing mAbs in this new collection, namely WECB2, TB12, PA1, PH12 and IB2 each had nanamolar (or sub-nanomolar) affinities for ricin and were each capable of passively protecting mice against a 5-10xLD50 toxin challenge. Competitive binding assays by surface plasmon resonance revealed that WECB2 binds an epitope that overlaps with PB10 and R70; TB12, PA1, PH12 recognize epitope(s) close to or overlapping with SyH7's epitope; and GD12 and IB2 recognize epitopes that are spatially distinct from all other toxin-neutralizing mAbs. We estimate that we have now accounted for ?75% of the predicted epitopes on the surface of RTA and that toxin-neutralizing mAbs are directed against a very limited number of these epitopes. Having this information provides a framework for further refinement of RTA mutagenesis and vaccine design.
Project description:The design of immunogens susceptible to elicit potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies against the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) remains a veritable challenge in the course of vaccine development. Viral envelope proteins adopt different conformational states during the entry process, allowing the presentation of transient neutralizing epitopes. We focused on the highly conserved 3S motif of gp41, which is exposed to the surface envelope in its trimeric prefusion state. Vaccination with a W614A-modified 3S peptide induces in animals neutralizing anti-HIV-1 antibodies among which we selected clone F8. We used F8 as bait to select for W614A-3S phage-peptide mimics. Binding and molecular docking studies revealed that F8 interacts similarly with W614A-3S and a Mim_F8-1 mimotope, despite their lack of sequence homology, suggesting structural mimicry. Finally, vaccination of mice with the purified Mim_F8-1 phage elicited HIV-1-neutralizing antibodies that bound to the cognate W614A-3S motif. Collectively, our findings provide new insights into the molecular design of immunogens to elicit antibodies with neutralizing properties.
Project description:The penultimate event in the intoxication of mammalian cells by ricin toxin is the reduction, in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), of the intermolecular disulfide bond that links ricin's enzymatic (RTA) and binding (RTB) subunits. In this report we adapted an in vitro protein disulfide isomerase (PDI)-mediated reduction assay to test the hypothesis that the RTA-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibody (mAb) IB2 interferes with the liberation of RTA from RTB. IB2 recognizes an epitope located near the interface between RTA and RTB and, like a number of other RTA-specific neutralizing mAbs, is proposed to neutralize ricin intracellularly. In this study, we found that IB2 virtually eliminated the reduction of ricin holotoxin into RTA and RTB in vitro. Surprisingly, three other neutralizing mAbs (GD12, R70 and SyH7) that bind epitopes at considerable distance from ricin's disulfide bond were as effective (or nearly as effective) as IB2 in interfering with PDI-mediated liberation of RTA from RTB. By contrast, two non-neutralizing RTA-specific mAbs, FGA12 and SB1, did not affect PDI-mediated reduction of ricin. These data reveal a possible mechanism by which RTA-specific antibodies may neutralize ricin intracellularly, provided they are capable of trafficking in association with ricin from the cell surface to the ER.
Project description:In this report we investigated, within a group of closely related single domain camelid antibodies (VH Hs), the relationship between binding affinity and neutralizing activity as it pertains to ricin, a fast-acting toxin and biothreat agent. The V1C7-like VH Hs (V1C7, V2B9, V2E8, and V5C1) are similar in amino acid sequence, but differ in their binding affinities and toxin-neutralizing activities. Using the X-ray crystal structure of V1C7 in complex with ricin's enzymatic subunit (RTA) as a template, Rosetta-based homology modeling coupled with energetic decomposition led us to predict that a single pairwise interaction between Arg29 on V5C1 and Glu67 on RTA was responsible for the difference in ricin toxin binding affinity between V1C7, a weak neutralizer, and V5C1, a moderate neutralizer. This prediction was borne out experimentally: substitution of Arg for Gly at position 29 enhanced V1C7's binding affinity for ricin, whereas the reverse (ie, Gly for Arg at position 29) diminished V5C1's binding affinity by >10 fold. As expected, the V5C1R29G mutant was largely devoid of toxin-neutralizing activity (TNA). However, the TNA of the V1C7G29R mutant was not correspondingly improved, indicating that in the V1C7 family binding affinity alone does not account for differences in antibody function. V1C7 and V5C1, as well as their respective point mutants, recognized indistinguishable epitopes on RTA, at least at the level of sensitivity afforded by hydrogen-deuterium mass spectrometry. The results of this study have implications for engineering therapeutic antibodies because they demonstrate that even subtle differences in epitope specificity can account for important differences in antibody function.