Pertussis toxin analog with reduced enzymatic and biological activities is a protective immunogen
Bordetella pertussis TOX3201 has a 12-base-pair insertion in the S1 subunit gene of pertussis toxin (PTX), which encodes for a 4-amino-acid insertion between residues 107 and 108 of the mature S1 subunit (Black et al., Science 240:656-659, 1988). This mutant strain has been shown to secrete a holotoxin analog of PTX, designated CRM3201, with reduced ADP-ribosyltransferase activity. In the present study, we evaluated the biochemical, biological, and immunoprotective activities of purified CRM3201. Assay of enzymatic activities showed that CRM3201 had 20 to 30% of the ADP-ribosyltransferase activity and 55 to 60% of the NAD glycohydrolase activity of native PTX. CRM3201, however, had only 2 to 6% of the activity of PTX in clustering CHO cells, promoting leukocytosis, inducing histamine sensitization, and potentiating an anaphylactic response to bovine serum albumin. In contrast, activities associated with the B oligomer (binding to fetuin, hemagglutination of goose erythrocytes, and lymphocyte mitogen activity) were comparable to those of native PTX. Injection of BALB/c mice with CRM3201 mixed with Al(OH)3 elicited high titers of antibody to PTX (as measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), which neutralized a leukocytosis-promoting dose of PTX in these mice and neutralized PTX in a CHO cell assay. Passive transfer of the anti-CRM3201 antibody protected 20-day-old Swiss-Webster mice against a lethal aerosol challenge with B. pertussis 18323. Active immunization with CRM3201 significantly reduced lung colonization in adult BALB/c mice with a B. pertussis respiratory infection. These results demonstrate (i) that the reduced ADP-ribosyltransferase activity of CRM3201 is associated with reductions in certain biological and toxic activities of PTX (the enzymatic and biological activities are not, however, totally concordant); (ii) that CRM3201 possesses a functional B oligomer; and (iii) that CRM3201 can induce toxin-neutralizing antibodies which protect mice against a respiratory challenge with B. pertussis. Our studies with CRM3201 show that recombinant analogs of PTX have the potential to be developed into safe, protective immunogens for use in new acellular pertussis vaccines.