We attempted to generate a physicochemically stable cholera toxin B subunit (CTB) by de novo-introduction of intersubunit disulfide bonds between adjacent subunits. Genes encoding double mutant CTB (dmCTB) encompassing a pair of amino acids to be replaced with cysteine residues either at the N-terminal (T1C/T92C, Q3C/T47C), C-terminal (F25C/N103C, Y76C/N103C), or at the internal α-helix region (L77C/T78C), were engineered. One mutant with the N-terminal constraint [dmCTB(T1C/T92C)], expressed as pentamer retained monosialoganglioside G(M1) (GM1) binding affinity, and exhibited robust thermostability. However, when the mutant CTB was heat-treated in the presence of a reducing agent, the thermostable phenotype was abolished, indicating the observed phenotype is due to the introduction of intersubunit disulfide bonds. The mutant CTB also exhibited a strong acid stability at a pH as low as 1.2, as well as stability against incubation with sodium dodecyl sulfate at concentrations as high as 10%. Furthermore, intranasal administration of the mutant CTB to mice induced CTB-specific serum IgG even after heat treatment, while the wildtype CTB failed to show such heat-resistant mucosal immunogenicity. This study demonstrated that an enterotoxin B subunit could be transformed into a physicochemically stable pentamer by the de novo-introduction of peripherally arranged intersubunit disulfide crosslinks, which may prove to be a useful strategy for the development of molecularly stable enterotoxin B subunit-based vaccines and delivery molecules.
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