Structural Analysis of Single Domain Antibodies Bound to a Second Neutralizing Hot Spot on Ricin Toxin's Enzymatic Subunit.
ABSTRACT: 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:As part of an effort to engineer ricin antitoxins and immunotherapies, we previously produced and characterized a collection of phage-displayed, heavy chain-only antibodies (VHHs) from alpacas that had been immunized with ricin antigens. In our initial screens, we identified nine VHHs directed against ricin toxin's binding subunit (RTB), but only one, JIZ-B7, had toxin-neutralizing activity. Linking JIZ-B7 to different VHHs against ricin's enzymatic subunit (RTA) resulted in several bispecific antibodies with potent toxin-neutralizing activity in vitro and in vivo. JIZ-B7 may therefore be an integral component of a future VHH-based neutralizing agent (VNA) for ricin toxin. In this study, we now localize, using competitive ELISA, JIZ-B7's epitope to a region of RTB's domain 2 sandwiched between the high-affinity galactose/N-acetylgalactosamine (Gal/GalNAc)-binding site and the boundary of a neutralizing hotspot on RTA known as cluster II. Analysis of additional RTB (n = 8)- and holotoxin (n = 4)-specific VHHs from a recent series of screens identified a "supercluster" of neutralizing epitopes at the RTA-RTB interface. Among the VHHs tested, toxin-neutralizing activity was most closely associated with epitope proximity to RTA, and not interference with RTB's ability to engage Gal/GalNAc receptors. We conclude that JIZ-B7 is representative of a larger group of potent toxin-neutralizing antibodies, possibly including many described in the literature dating back several decades, that recognize tertiary and possibly quaternary epitopes located at the RTA-RTB interface and that target a region of vulnerability on ricin toxin.
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:Ricin, a member of the A-B family of ribosome-inactivating proteins, is classified as a Select Toxin by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of its potential use as a biothreat agent. In an effort to engineer therapeutics for ricin, we recently produced a collection of alpaca-derived, heavy-chain only antibody VH domains (VHH or "nanobody") specific for ricin's enzymatic (RTA) and binding (RTB) subunits. We reported that one particular RTB-specific VHH, RTB-B7, when covalently linked via a peptide spacer to different RTA-specific VHHs, resulted in heterodimers like VHH D10/B7 that were capable of passively protecting mice against a lethal dose challenge with ricin. However, RTB-B7 itself, when mixed with ricin at a 1 ? 10 toxin:antibody ratio did not afford any protection in vivo, even though it had demonstrable toxin-neutralizing activity in vitro. To better define the specific attributes of antibodies associated with ricin neutralization in vitro and in vivo, we undertook a more thorough characterization of RTB-B7. We report that RTB-B7, even at 100-fold molar excess (toxin:antibody) was unable to alter the toxicity of ricin in a mouse model. On the other hand, in two well-established cytotoxicity assays, RTB-B7 neutralized ricin with a 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) that was equivalent to that of 24B11, a well-characterized and potent RTB-specific murine monoclonal antibody. In fact, RTB-B7 and 24B11 were virtually identical when compared across a series of in vitro assays, including adherence to and neutralization of ricin after the toxin was pre-bound to cell surface receptors. RTB-B7 differed from both 24B11 and VHH D10/B7 in that it was relatively less effective at blocking ricin attachment to receptors on host cells and was not able to form high molecular weight toxin:antibody complexes in solution. Whether either of these activities is important in ricin toxin neutralizing activity in vivo remains to be determined.
Project description:In an effort to engineer countermeasures for the category B toxin ricin, we produced and characterized a collection of epitopic tagged, heavy chain-only antibody VH domains (VHHs) specific for the ricin enzymatic (RTA) and binding (RTB) subunits. Among the 20 unique ricin-specific VHHs we identified, six had toxin-neutralizing activity: five specific for RTA and one specific for RTB. Three neutralizing RTA-specific VHHs were each linked via a short peptide spacer to the sole neutralizing anti-RTB VHH to create VHH "heterodimers." As compared with equimolar concentrations of their respective monovalent monomers, all three VHH heterodimers had higher affinities for ricin and, in the case of heterodimer D10/B7, a 6-fold increase in in vitro toxin-neutralizing activity. When passively administered to mice at a 4:1 heterodimer:toxin ratio, D10/B7 conferred 100% survival in response to a 10 × LD50 ricin challenge, whereas a 2:1 heterodimer:toxin ratio conferred 20% survival. However, complete survival was achievable when the low dose of D10/B7 was combined with an IgG1 anti-epitopic tag monoclonal antibody, possibly because decorating the toxin with up to four IgGs promoted serum clearance. The two additional ricin-specific heterodimers, when tested in vivo, provided equal or greater passive protection than D10/B7, thereby warranting further investigation of all three heterodimers as possible therapeutics.
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: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:Ricin toxin's binding subunit (RTB) is a galactose-/N-acetylgalactosamine (Gal/GalNac)-specific lectin that mediates uptake and intracellular trafficking of ricin within mammalian cells. Structurally, RTB consists of two globular domains, each divided into three homologous sub-domains (?, ?, ?). In this report, we describe five new murine IgG monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against RTB: MH3, 8A1, 8B3, LF1, and LC5. The mAbs have similar binding affinities (KD) for ricin holotoxin, but displayed a wide range of in vitro toxin-neutralizing activities. Competition ELISAs indicate that the two most potent toxin-neutralizing mAbs (MH3, 8A1), as well as one of the moderate toxin-neutralizing mAbs (LF1), recognize distinct epitopes near the low affinity Gal recognition domain in RTB subdomain 1?. Evaluated in a mouse model of systemic ricin challenge, all five mAbs afforded some benefit against intoxication, but only MH3 was protective. However, neither MH3 nor 24B11, another well-characterized mAb against RTB subdomain 1?, could passively protect mice against a mucosal (intranasal) ricin challenge. This is in contrast to SylH3, a previously characterized mAb directed against an epitope near RTB's high affinity Gal/GalNac recognition element in sub-domain 2?, which protected animals against systemic and mucosal ricin exposure. SylH3 was significantly more effective than MH3 and 24B11 at blocking ricin attachment to host cell receptors, suggesting that mucosal immunity to ricin is best imparted by antibodies that target RTB's high affinity Gal/GalNac recognition element in subdomain 2?, not the low affinity Gal recognition domain in subdomain 1?.
Project description:Ricin toxin is an extraordinarily potent inducer of cell death and inflammation. Ricin is also a potent provocateur of the humoral immune system, eliciting a mixture of neutralizing, non-neutralizing and even toxin-enhancing antibodies. The characterization of dozens of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against the toxin's enzymatic (RTA) and binding (RTB) subunits has begun to reveal fundamental insights into the underlying mechanisms by which antibodies neutralize (or fail to neutralize) ricin in systemic and mucosal compartments. This information has had immediate applications in the design, development and evaluation of ricin subunit vaccines and immunotherapeutics.
Project description:Ricin toxin's B subunit (RTB) is a multifunctional galactose (Gal)-/N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNac)-specific lectin that promotes uptake and intracellular trafficking of ricin's ribosome-inactivating subunit (RTA) into mammalian cells. Structurally, RTB consists of two globular domains (RTB-D1, RTB-D2), each divided into three homologous sub-domains (?, ?, ?). The two carbohydrate recognition domains (CRDs) are situated on opposite sides of RTB (sub-domains 1? and 2?) and function non-cooperatively. Previous studies have revealed two distinct classes of toxin-neutralizing, anti-RTB monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Type I mAbs, exemplified by SylH3, inhibit (~90%) toxin attachment to cell surfaces, while type II mAbs, epitomized by 24B11, interfere with intracellular toxin transport between the plasma membrane and the trans-Golgi network (TGN). Localizing the epitopes recognized by these two classes of mAbs has proven difficult, in part because of RTB's duplicative structure. To circumvent this problem, RTB-D1 and RTB-D2 were expressed as pIII fusion proteins on the surface of filamentous phage M13 and subsequently used as "bait" in mAb capture assays. We found that SylH3 captured RTB-D1 (but not RTB-D2) in a dose-dependent manner, while 24B11 captured RTB-D2 (but not RTB-D1) in a dose-dependent manner. We confirmed these domain assignments by competition studies with an additional 8 RTB-specific mAbs along with a dozen a single chain antibodies (VHHs). Collectively, these results demonstrate that type I and type II mAbs segregate on the basis of domain specificity and suggest that RTB's two domains may contribute to distinct steps in the intoxication pathway.
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.