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Characterization of a key neutralizing epitope on pertussis toxin recognized by monoclonal antibody 1B7

Sutherland JN, Maynard JA

Despite more than five decades of research and vaccination, infection by Bordetella pertussis remains a serious disease with no specific treatments or validated correlates of protective immunity. Of the numerous monoclonal antibodies binding pertussis toxin (PTx) that have been produced and characterized, murine IgG2a monoclonal antibody 1B7 is uniquely neutralizing in all in vitro assays and in vivo murine models of infection. 1B7 binds an epitope on the enzymatically active S1 subunit of PTx (PTx-S1) with some linear elements, but previous work with S1 scanning peptides, phage-displayed peptide libraries, and S1 truncation/deletion variants was unable to more precisely define the epitope. Using computational docking algorithms, alanine scanning mutagenesis, and surface plasmon resonance, we characterize the epitope bound by 1B7 on PTx-S1 in molecular detail and define energetically important interactions between residues at the interface. Six residues on PTx-S1 and six residues on 1B7 were identified that, when altered to alanine, resulted in variants with significantly reduced affinity for the native partner. Using this information, a model of the 1B7-S1 interaction was developed, indicating a predominantly conformational epitope located on the base of S1 near S4. The location of this epitope is consistent with previous data and is shown to be conserved across several naturally occurring strain variants, including PTx-S1A, -B (Tohama-I), -D, and -E (18-323) in addition to the catalytically inactive 9K/129G variant. This highly neutralizing but poorly immunogenic epitope may represent an important target for next-generation vaccine development, identification of immune correlates, and passive immunization strategies for pertussis.