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Camelid VHH Antibodies that Neutralize Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype E Intoxication or Protease Function


Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) serotype E is one of three serotypes that cause the preponderance of human botulism cases and is a Tier 1 Select Agent. BoNT/E is unusual among BoNT serotypes for its rapid onset and short duration of intoxication. Here we report two large panels of unique, unrelated camelid single-domain antibodies (VHHs) that were selected for their ability to bind to BoNT/E holotoxin and/or to the BoNT/E light chain protease domain (LC/E). The 19 VHHs which bind to BoNT/E were characterized for their subunit specificity and 8 VHHs displayed the ability to neutralize BoNT/E intoxication of neurons. Heterodimer antitoxins consisting of two BoNT/E-neutralizing VHHs, including one heterodimer designed using structural information for simultaneous binding, were shown to protect mice against co-administered toxin challenges of up to 500 MIPLD50. The 22 unique VHHs which bind to LC/E were characterized for their binding properties and 9 displayed the ability to inhibit LC/E protease activity. Surprisingly, VHHs selected on plastic-coated LC/E were virtually unable to recognize soluble or captured LC/E while VHHs selected on captured LC/E were poorly able to recognize LC/E coated to a plastic surface. This panel of anti-LC/E VHHs offer insight into BoNT/E function, and some may have value as components of therapeutic antidotes that reverse paralysis following BoNT/E exposures.

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