Ricin: An Ancient Story for a Timeless Plant Toxin.
ABSTRACT: The castor plant (Ricinus communis L.) has been known since time immemorial in traditional medicine in the pharmacopeia of Mediterranean and eastern ancient cultures. Moreover, it is still used in folk medicine worldwide. Castor bean has been mainly recommended as anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, anti-bacterial, laxative, abortifacient, for wounds, ulcers, and many other indications. Many cases of human intoxication occurred accidentally or voluntarily with the ingestion of castor seeds or derivatives. Ricinus toxicity depends on several molecules, among them the most important is ricin, a protein belonging to the family of ribosome-inactivating proteins. Ricin is the most studied of this category of proteins and it is also known to the general public, having been used for several biocrimes. This manuscript intends to give the reader an overview of ricin, focusing on the historical path to the current knowledge on this protein. The main steps of ricin research are here reported, with particular regard to its enzymatic activity, structure, and cytotoxicity. Moreover, we discuss ricin toxicity for animals and humans, as well as the relation between bioterrorism and ricin and its impact on environmental toxicity. Ricin has also been used to develop immunotoxins for the elimination of unwanted cells, mainly cancer cells; some of these immunoconjugates gave promising results in clinical trials but also showed critical limitation.
Project description:Ricin is an abundant protein from the castor bean plant Ricinus communis. Because of its high toxicity and the simplicity of producing mass quantities, ricin is considered a biological terrorism agent. We have characterized ricin extensively with a view to develop Reference Materials that could be used to test and calibrate detection devices. The characterization of ricin includes: 1) purity test of a commercial batch of ricin using electrophoresis in polyacrylamide gels, 2) biological activity assay by measuring its ability to inhibit protein synthesis, 3) quantitation of protein concentration by amino acid analysis, 4) detection of ricin by an immunoassay using a flow cytometer, and 5) detection of ricin genomic DNA by polymerase chain reaction using nine different primer sets. By implementing these five methods of characterization, we are in a position to develop a reference material for ricin.
Project description:Ricin, produced from the castor beans of <i>Ricinus communis</i>, is a cytotoxin that exerts its action by inactivating ribosomes and causing cell death. Accidental (e.g., ingestion of castor beans) and/or intentional (e.g., suicide) exposure to ricin through the oral route is an area of concern from a public health perspective and no current licensed medical interventions exist to protect from the action of the toxin. Therefore, we examined the oral toxicity of ricin in Balb/C mice and developed a robust food deprivation model of ricin oral intoxication that has enabled the assessment of potential antitoxin treatments. A lethal oral dose was identified and mice were found to succumb to the toxin within 48 h of exposure. We then examined whether a despeciated ovine F(ab')<sub>2</sub> antibody fragment, that had previously been demonstrated to protect mice from exposure to aerosolised ricin, could also protect against oral intoxication. Mice were challenged orally with an LD<sub>99</sub> of ricin, and 89 and 44% of mice exposed to this otherwise lethal exposure survived after receiving either the parent anti-ricin IgG or F(ab')<sub>2</sub>, respectively. Combined with our previous work, these results further highlight the benefit of ovine-derived polyclonal antibody antitoxin in providing post-exposure protection against ricin intoxication.
Project description:Ricin is a highly toxic ribosome-inactivating lectin occurring in the seeds of castor bean (Ricinus communis L.). Castor bean grows throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions and is a very important crop due to its high seed content of ricinoleic acid, an unusual fatty acid, which has several industrial applications. However, due to the presence of the toxin, castor bean can cause death after the exposure of animals to low doses of ricin through skin contact, injection, inhalation or oral routes. Aiming to generate a detoxified genotype, we explored the RNAi concept in order to silence the ricin coding genes in the endosperm of castor bean seeds. Results indicated that ricin genes were effectively silenced in genetically modified (GM) plants, and ricin proteins were not detected by ELISA. Hemagglutination activity was not observed with proteins isolated from GM seeds. In addition, we demonstrated that seed proteins from GM plants were not toxic to rat intestine epithelial cells or to Swiss Webster mice. After oil extraction, bio-detoxified castor bean cake, which is very rich in valuable proteins, can be used for animal feeding. Gene silencing would make castor bean cultivation safer for farmers, industrial workers and society.
Project description:Ricin can be isolated from the seeds of the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis). It belongs to the ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP) family of toxins classified as a bio-threat agent due to its high toxicity, stability and availability. Ricin is a typical A-B toxin consisting of a single enzymatic A subunit (RTA) and a binding B subunit (RTB) joined by a single disulfide bond. RTA possesses an RNA N-glycosidase activity; it cleaves ribosomal RNA leading to the inhibition of protein synthesis. However, the mechanism of ricin-mediated cell death is quite complex, as a growing number of studies demonstrate that the inhibition of protein synthesis is not always correlated with long term ricin toxicity. To exert its cytotoxic effect, ricin A-chain has to be transported to the cytosol of the host cell. This translocation is preceded by endocytic uptake of the toxin and retrograde traffic through the trans-Golgi network (TGN) and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In this article, we describe intracellular trafficking of ricin with particular emphasis on host cell factors that facilitate this transport and contribute to ricin cytotoxicity in mammalian and yeast cells. The current understanding of the mechanisms of ricin-mediated cell death is discussed as well. We also comment on recent reports presenting medical applications for ricin and progress associated with the development of vaccines against this toxin.
Project description:The seeds of the Ricinus communis (Castor bean) plant are the source of the economically important commodity castor oil. Castor seeds also contain the proteins ricin and R. communis agglutinin (RCA), two toxic lectins that are hazardous to human health. Radial immunodiffusion (RID) and the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) are two antibody-based methods commonly used to quantify ricin and RCA; however, antibodies currently used in these methods cannot distinguish between ricin and RCA due to the high sequence homology of the respective proteins. In this study, a technique combining antibody-based affinity capture with liquid chromatography and multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mass spectrometry (MS) was used to quantify the amounts of ricin and RCA independently in extracts prepared from the seeds of eighteen representative cultivars of R. communis which were propagated under identical conditions. Additionally, liquid chromatography and MRM-MS was used to determine rRNA N-glycosidase activity for each cultivar and the overall activity in these cultivars was compared to a purified ricin standard. Of the cultivars studied, the average ricin content was 9.3 mg/g seed, the average RCA content was 9.9 mg/g seed, and the enzymatic activity agreed with the activity of a purified ricin reference within 35% relative activity.
Project description:Ricin toxin, an extremely potent and heat-stable toxin produced from the bean of the ubiquitous Ricinus communis (castor bean plant), has been categorized by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a category B biothreat agent that is moderately easy to disseminate. Ricin has the potential to be used as an agent of biological warfare and bioterrorism. Therefore, there is a critical need for continued development of ricin countermeasures. A safe and effective prophylactic vaccine against ricin that was FDA approved for "at risk" individuals would be an important first step in assuring the availability of medical countermeasures against ricin.
Project description:Castor bean (Ricinus communis) is an oilseed crop that belongs to the spurge (Euphorbiaceae) family, which comprises approximately 6,300 species that include cassava (Manihot esculenta), rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) and physic nut (Jatropha curcas). It is primarily of economic interest as a source of castor oil, used for the production of high-quality lubricants because of its high proportion of the unusual fatty acid ricinoleic acid. However, castor bean genomics is also relevant to biosecurity as the seeds contain high levels of ricin, a highly toxic, ribosome-inactivating protein. Here we report the draft genome sequence of castor bean (4.6-fold coverage), the first for a member of the Euphorbiaceae. Whereas most of the key genes involved in oil synthesis and turnover are single copy, the number of members of the ricin gene family is larger than previously thought. Comparative genomics analysis suggests the presence of an ancient hexaploidization event that is conserved across the dicotyledonous lineage.
Project description:Ricin toxin (RT) is derived from castor beans, produced by the plant Ricinus communis. RT and its toxic A chain (RTA) have been used therapeutically to arm ligands that target disease-causing cells. In most cases these ligands are cell-binding monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). These ligand-toxin conjugates or immunotoxins (ITs) have shown success in clinical trials . Ricin is also of concern in biodefense and has been classified by the CDC as a Class B biothreat. Virtually all reports of RT poisoning have been due to ingestion of castor beans, since they grow abundantly throughout the world and are readily available. RT is easily purified and stable, and is not difficult to weaponize. RT must be considered during any "white powder" incident and there have been documented cases of its use in espionage [2,3]. The clinical syndrome resulting from ricin intoxication is dependent upon the route of exposure. Countermeasures to prevent ricin poisoning are being developed and their use will depend upon whether military or civilian populations are at risk of exposure. In this review we will discuss ricin toxin, its cellular mode of action, the clinical syndromes that occur following exposure and the development of pre- and post-exposure approaches to prevent of intoxication.
Project description:The toxic protein ricin (also known as RCA60), found in the seed of the castor plant (Ricinus communis) is frequently encountered in law enforcement investigations. The ability to detect ricin by analyzing its proteolytic (tryptic) peptides by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is well established. However, ricin is just one member of a family of proteins in R. communis with closely related amino acid sequences, including R. communis agglutinin I (RCA120) and other ricin-like proteins (RLPs). Inferring the presence of ricin from its constituent peptides requires an understanding of the specificity, or uniqueness to ricin, of each peptide. Here we describe the set of ricin-derived tryptic peptides that can serve to uniquely identify ricin in distinction to closely-related RLPs and to proteins from other species. Other ricin-derived peptide sequences occur only in the castor plant, and still others are shared with unrelated species. We also characterized the occurrence and relative abundance of ricin and related proteins in an assortment of forensically relevant crude castor seed preparations. We find that whereas ricin and RCA120 are abundant in castor seed extracts, other RLPs are not represented by abundant unique peptides. Therefore, the detection of peptides shared between ricin and RLPs (other than RCA120) in crude castor seed extracts most likely reflects the presence of ricin in the sample.
Project description:Ricin is a plant derived protein toxin produced by the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifies ricin as a Category B biological agent. Currently, there is neither an effective vaccine that can be used to protect against ricin exposure nor a therapeutic to reverse the effects once exposed. Here we quantitatively characterize interactions between catalytic ricin A-chain (RTA) and a viral genome-linked protein (VPg) from turnip mosaic virus (TuMV). VPg and its N-terminal truncated variant, VPg1-110, bind to RTA and abolish ricin's catalytic depurination of 28S rRNA in vitro and in a cell-free rabbit reticulocyte translational system. RTA and VPg bind in a 1 to 1 stoichiometric ratio, and their binding affinity increases ten-fold as temperature elevates (5?°C to 37?°C). RTA-VPg binary complex formation is enthalpically driven and favored by entropy, resulting in an overall favorable energy, ?G?=?-136.8?kJ/mol. Molecular modeling supports our experimental observations and predicts a major contribution of electrostatic interactions, suggesting an allosteric mechanism of downregulation of RTA activity through conformational changes in RTA structure, and/or disruption of binding with the ribosomal stalk. Fluorescence anisotropy studies show that heat affects the rate constant and the activation energy for the RTA-VPg complex, Ea?=?-62.1 kJ/mol. The thermodynamic and kinetic findings presented here are an initial lead study with promising results and provides a rational approach for synthesis of therapeutic peptides that successfully eliminate toxicity of ricin, and other cytotoxic RIPs.