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.
Keywords: Antibody; Epitope; Toxin; Vaccine.
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