Proteomic profiling of precipitated Clostridioides difficile toxin A and B antibodies

Vaccine. 2020 Feb 18;38(8):2077-2087. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.10.096. Epub 2019 Nov 11.


Clostridioides difficile infection is the leading cause of nosocomial diarrhoea globally. Immune responses to toxins produced by C. difficile are important in disease progression and outcome. Here, we analysed the anti-toxin A and anti-toxin B serum antibody proteomes following natural infection or vaccination with a C. difficile toxoid A/toxoid B vaccine using a modified miniaturised proteomic approach based on de novo mass spectrometric sequencing. Analysis of immunoglobulin variable region (IgV) subfamily expression in immunoprecipitated toxin A and toxin B antibodies from four and seven participants of a vaccine trial, respectively, revealed a polyclonal proteome with restricted IGHV, IGKV and IGLV subfamily usage. No dominant IGHV subfamily was observed in the toxin A response, however the dominant anti-toxin B heavy (H)-chain was encoded by IGHV3-23. Light (L)-chain usage was convergent for both anti-toxin A and anti-toxin B proteomes with IGKV3-11, 3-15, 3-20 and 4-1 shared among all subjects in both cohorts. Peptide mapping of common IgV families showed extensive public and private amino acid substitutions. The cohort responses to toxin A and toxin B showed limited similarity in shared IGHV subfamilies. L-chain subfamily usage was more similar in the anti-toxin A and anti-toxin B responses, however the mutational signatures for each subfamily were toxin-dependent. Samples taken both post vaccination (n = 5) or at baseline, indicating previous exposure (n = 2), showed similar anti-toxin B IgV subfamily usage and mutational profiles. In summary, this study provides the first sequence-based proteomic analysis of the antibody response to the major disease-mediating toxins of C. difficile, toxin A and toxin B, and demonstrates that despite the potential for extreme diversity, the immunoglobulin repertoire can raise convergent responses to specific pathogens whether through natural infection or following vaccination.

Keywords: C. difficile; Mass spectrometric sequencing; Proteomics; Serum antibody repertoire; Vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Bacterial Toxins / immunology*
  • Bacterial Vaccines / immunology*
  • Clostridioides difficile*
  • Clostridium Infections* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Peptide Mapping
  • Proteome / immunology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Proteome