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Bioinformatics and multiepitope DNA immunization to design rational snake antivenom

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Wagstaff, Simon ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0577-5537, Laing, Gavin, Theakston, R.David G, Papaspyridis, Christina and Harrison, Robert (2006) 'Bioinformatics and multiepitope DNA immunization to design rational snake antivenom'. PLoS Medicine, Vol 3, Issue 6, e184.

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Abstract

Background

Snake venom is a potentially lethal and complex mixture of hundreds of functionally diverse proteins that are difficult to purify and hence difficult to characterize. These difficulties have inhibited the development of toxin-targeted therapy, and conventional antivenom is still generated from the sera of horses or sheep immunized with whole venom. Although life-saving, antivenoms contain an immunoglobulin pool of unknown antigen specificity and known redundancy, which necessitates the delivery of large volumes of heterologous immunoglobulin to the envenomed victim, thus increasing the risk of anaphylactoid and serum sickness adverse effects. Here we exploit recent molecular sequence analysis and DNA immunization tools to design more rational toxin-targeted antivenom.

Methods and Findings

We developed a novel bioinformatic strategy that identified sequences encoding immunogenic and structurally significant epitopes from an expressed sequence tag database of a venom gland cDNA library of Echis ocellatus, the most medically important viper in Africa. Focusing upon snake venom metalloproteinases (SVMPs) that are responsible for the severe and frequently lethal hemorrhage in envenomed victims, we identified seven epitopes that we predicted would be represented in all isomers of this multimeric toxin and that we engineered into a single synthetic multiepitope DNA immunogen ( epitope string). We compared the specificity and toxin-neutralizing efficacy of antiserum raised against the string to antisera raised against a single SVMP toxin ( or domains) or antiserum raised by conventional ( whole venom) immunization protocols. The SVMP string antiserum, as predicted in silico, contained antibody specificities to numerous SVMPs in E. ocellatus venom and venoms of several other African vipers. More significantly, the antiserum cross-specifically neutralized hemorrhage induced by E. ocellatus and Cerastes cerastes cerastes venoms.

Conclusions

These data provide valuable sequence and structure/ function information of viper venom hemorrhagins but, more importantly, a new opportunity to design toxin-specific antivenoms the first major conceptual change in antivenom design after more than a century of production. Furthermore, this approach may be adapted to immunotherapy design in other cases where targets are numerous, diverse, and poorly characterized such as those generated by hypermutation or antigenic variation.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: QW Microbiology and Immunology > Immunotherapy and Hypersensitivity > QW 805 Vaccines. Antitoxins. Toxoids
WD Disorders of Systemic, Metabolic or Environmental Origin, etc > Animal Poisons > WD 400 General works
WD Disorders of Systemic, Metabolic or Environmental Origin, etc > Animal Poisons > WD 410 Reptiles
Faculty: Department: Groups (2002 - 2012) > Molecular & Biochemical Parasitology Group
Digital Object Identifer (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030184
Depositing User: Sarah Lewis-Newton
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2011 14:45
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2018 13:02
URI: https://archive.lstmed.ac.uk/id/eprint/1626

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