Author(s): Friedlander AM, Bhatnagar R, Leppla SH, Johnson L, Singh Y
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Abstract Anthrax lethal toxin, which consists of two proteins, protective antigen and lethal factor, is cytolytic for macrophages. Macrophages from different mouse strains were found to vary in their sensitivities to toxin. C3H mouse macrophages lysed by lethal factor concentrations of 0.001 micrograms/ml were 100,000 times more sensitive than those from resistant A/J mice. We analyzed various stages of the intoxication process to determine the basis for this resistance. Direct binding studies with radioiodinated protective antigen revealed that the affinity (Kd, approximately 0.5 nM) and number of receptors per cell (25,000 to 33,000) were the same in sensitive and resistant cells. Proteolytic activation of protective antigen by a cell surface protease and subsequent binding of lethal factor were also the same in both sensitive and resistant macrophages. Resistant A/J macrophages were not cross-resistant to other toxins and a virus which, like lethal toxin, require vesicular acidification for activity, implying that resistance is not due to a defect in vesicular acidification. When introduced into the cytosol by osmotic lysis of pinosomes, lethal factor in the absence of protective antigen was cytolytic for the sensitive macrophages while resistant cells were unaffected. Thus, lethal factor by itself possesses the toxic activity of lethal toxin. These results suggest that macrophage resistance is due to a defect at a stage occurring after toxin internalization. A/J macrophages may lack the putative lethal factor target in the cytosol or be defective in the further processing or activation of lethal factor in the cytosol or in endocytic vesicles.
This article was published in Infect Immun
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense