Bioterrorism alleging use of anthrax and interim guidelines for management--United States, 1998.
From October 30 through December 23, 1998, CDC received reports of a series of bioterroristic threats of anthrax exposure. Letters alleged to contain anthrax were sent to health clinics on October 30, 1998, in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. During December 17-23 in California, a letter alleged to contain anthrax was sent to a private business, and three telephone threats of anthrax contamination of ventilation systems were made to private and public buildings. All threats were hoaxes and are under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local law enforcement officials. The public health implications of these threats were investigated to assist in developing national public health guidelines for responding to bioterrorism. This report summarizes the findings of these investigations and provides interim guidance for public health authorities on bioterrorism related to anthrax. (+info)
A randomly amplified polymorphic DNA marker specific for the Bacillus cereus group is diagnostic for Bacillus anthracis.
Aiming to develop a DNA marker specific for Bacillus anthracis and able to discriminate this species from Bacillus cereus, Bacillus thuringiensis, and Bacillus mycoides, we applied the randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) fingerprinting technique to a collection of 101 strains of the genus Bacillus, including 61 strains of the B. cereus group. An 838-bp RAPD marker (SG-850) specific for B. cereus, B. thuringiensis, B. anthracis, and B. mycoides was identified. This fragment included a putative (366-nucleotide) open reading frame highly homologous to the ypuA gene of Bacillus subtilis. The restriction analysis of the SG-850 fragment with AluI distinguished B. anthracis from the other species of the B. cereus group. (+info)
Oligomerization of anthrax toxin protective antigen and binding of lethal factor during endocytic uptake into mammalian cells.
The protective antigen (PA) protein of anthrax toxin binds to a cellular receptor and is cleaved by cell surface furin to produce a 63-kDa fragment (PA63). The receptor-bound PA63 oligomerizes to a heptamer and acts to translocate the catalytic moieties of the toxin, lethal factor (LF) and edema factor (EF), from endosomes to the cytosol. In this report, we used nondenaturing gel electrophoresis to show that each PA63 subunit in the heptamer can bind one LF molecule. Studies using PA immobilized on a plastic surface showed that monomeric PA63 is also able to bind LF. The internalization of PA and LF by cells was studied with radiolabeled and biotinylated proteins. Uptake was relatively slow, with a half-time of 30 min. The number of moles of LF internalized was nearly equal to the number of moles of PA subunit internalized. The essential role of PA oligomerization in LF translocation was shown with PA protein cleaved at residues 313-314. The oligomers formed by these proteins during uptake into cells were not as stable when subjected to heat and detergent as were those formed by native PA. The results show that the structure of the toxin proteins and the kinetics of proteolytic activation, LF binding, and internalization are balanced in a way that allows each PA63 subunit to internalize an LF molecule. This set of proteins has evolved to achieve highly efficient internalization and membrane translocation of the catalytic components, LF and EF. (+info)
Identification of a receptor-binding region within domain 4 of the protective antigen component of anthrax toxin.
Anthrax toxin from Bacillus anthracis is a three-component toxin consisting of lethal factor (LF), edema factor (EF), and protective antigen (PA). LF and EF are the catalytic components of the toxin, whereas PA is the receptor-binding component. To identify residues of PA that are involved in interaction with the cellular receptor, two solvent-exposed loops of domain 4 of PA (amino acids [aa] 679 to 693 and 704 to 723) were mutagenized, and the altered proteins purified and tested for toxicity in the presence of LF. In addition to the intended substitutions, novel mutations were introduced by errors that occurred during PCR. Substitutions within the large loop (aa 704 to 723) had no effect on PA activity. A mutated protein, LST-35, with three substitutions in the small loop (aa 679 to 693), bound weakly to the receptor and was nontoxic. A mutated protein, LST-8, with changes in three separate regions did not bind to receptor and was nontoxic. Toxicity was greatly decreased by truncation of the C-terminal 3 to 5 aa, but not by their substitution with nonnative residues or the extension of the terminus with nonnative sequences. Comparison of the 28 mutant proteins described here showed that the large loop (aa 704 to 722) is not involved in receptor binding, whereas residues in and near the small loop (aa 679 to 693) play an important role in receptor interaction. Other regions of domain 4, in particular residues at the extreme C terminus, appear to play a role in stabilizing a conformation needed for receptor-binding activity. (+info)
Genetic diversity in the protective antigen gene of Bacillus anthracis.
Bacillus anthracis is a gram-positive spore-forming bacterium that causes the disease anthrax. The anthrax toxin contains three components, including the protective antigen (PA), which binds to eucaryotic cell surface receptors and mediates the transport of toxins into the cell. In this study, the entire 2,294-nucleotide protective antigen gene (pag) was sequenced from 26 of the most diverse B. anthracis strains to identify potential variation in the toxin and to further our understanding of B. anthracis evolution. Five point mutations, three synonymous and two missense, were identified. These differences correspond to six different haploid types, which translate into three different amino acid sequences. The two amino acid changes were shown to be located in an area near a highly antigenic region critical to lethal factor binding. Nested primers were used to amplify and sequence this same region of pag from necropsy samples taken from victims of the 1979 Sverdlovsk incident. This investigation uncovered five different alleles among the strains present in the tissues, including two not seen in the 26-sample survey. One of these two alleles included a novel missense mutation, again located just adjacent to the highly antigenic region. Phylogenetic (cladistic) analysis of the pag corresponded with previous strain grouping based on chromosomal variation, suggesting that plasmid evolution in B. anthracis has occurred with little or no horizontal transfer between the different strains. (+info)
Distinct affinity of binding sites for S-layer homologous domains in Clostridium thermocellum and Bacillus anthracis cell envelopes.
Binding parameters were determined for the SLH (S-layer homologous) domains from the Clostridium thermocellum outer layer protein OlpB, from the C. thermocellum S-layer protein SlpA, and from the Bacillus anthracis S-layer proteins EA1 and Sap, using cell walls from C. thermocellum and B. anthracis. Each SLH domain bound to C. thermocellum and B. anthracis cell walls with a different KD, ranging between 7.1 x 10(-7) and 1.8 x 10(-8) M. Cell wall binding sites for SLH domains displayed different binding specificities in C. thermocellum and B. anthracis. SLH-binding sites were not detected in cell walls of Bacillus subtilis. Cell walls of C. thermocellum lost their affinity for SLH domains after treatment with 48% hydrofluoric acid but not after treatment with formamide or dilute acid. A soluble component, extracted from C. thermocellum cells by sodium dodecyl sulfate treatment, bound the SLH domains from C. thermocellum but not those from B. anthracis proteins. A corresponding component was not found in B. anthracis. (+info)
Autogenous regulation of the Bacillus anthracis pag operon.
Protective antigen (PA) is an important component of the edema and lethal toxins produced by Bacillus anthracis. PA is essential for binding the toxins to the target cell receptor and for facilitating translocation of the enzymatic toxin components, edema factor and lethal factor, across the target cell membrane. The structural gene for PA, pagA (previously known as pag), is located on the 182-kb virulence plasmid pXO1 at a locus distinct from the edema factor and lethal factor genes. Here we show that a 300-bp gene located downstream of pagA is cotranscribed with pagA and represses expression of the operon. We have designated this gene pagR (for protective antigen repressor). Two pagA mRNA transcripts were detected in cells producing PA: a short, 2.7-kb transcript corresponding to the pagA gene, and a longer, 4.2-kb transcript representing a bicistronic message derived from pagA and pagR. The 3' end of the short transcript mapped adjacent to an inverted repeat sequence, suggesting that the sequence can act as a transcription terminator. Attenuation of termination at this site results in transcription of pagR. A pagR mutant exhibited increased steady-state levels of pagA mRNA, indicating that pagR negatively controls expression of the operon. Autogenous control of the operon may involve atxA, a trans-acting positive regulator of pagA. The steady-state level of atxA mRNA was also increased in the pagR mutant. The mutant phenotype was complemented by addition of pagR in trans on a multicopy plasmid. (+info)
Cell surface-exposed tetanus toxin fragment C produced by recombinant Bacillus anthracis protects against tetanus toxin.
Bacillus anthracis, the causal agent of anthrax, synthesizes two surface layer (S-layer) proteins, EA1 and Sap, which account for 5 to 10% of total protein and are expressed in vivo. A recombinant B. anthracis strain was constructed by integrating into the chromosome a translational fusion harboring the DNA fragments encoding the cell wall-targeting domain of the S-layer protein EA1 and tetanus toxin fragment C (ToxC). This construct was expressed under the control of the promoter of the S-layer component gene. The hybrid protein was stably expressed on the cell surface of the bacterium. Mice were immunized with bacilli of the corresponding strain, and the hybrid protein elicited a humoral response to ToxC. This immune response was sufficient to protect mice against tetanus toxin challenge. Thus, the strategy developed in this study may make it possible to generate multivalent live veterinary vaccines, using the S-layer protein genes as a cell surface display system. (+info)