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Development of a New Cell-Based AP-1 Gene Reporter Potency Assay for Anti-Anthrax Toxin Therapeutics

Ouyang, W;Xie, T;Fang, H;Frucht, D;

Anthrax toxin is a critical virulence factor of Bacillus anthracis. The toxin comprises protective antigen (PA) and two enzymatic moieties, edema factor (EF) and lethal factor (LF), forming bipartite lethal toxin (LT) and edema toxin (ET). PA binds cellular surface receptors and is required for intracellular translocation of the enzymatic moieties. For this reason, anti-PA antibodies have been developed as therapeutics for prophylaxis and treatment of human anthrax infection. Assays described publicly for the control of anti-PA antibody potency quantify inhibition of LT-mediated cell death or the ET-induced increase in c-AMP levels. These assays do not fully reflect and/or capture the pathological functions of anthrax toxin in humans. Herein, we report the development of a cell-based gene reporter potency assay for anti-PA antibodies based on the rapid LT-induced degradation of c-Jun protein, a pathogenic effect that occurs in human cells. This new assay was developed by transducing Hepa1c1c7 cells with an AP-1 reporter lentiviral construct and has been qualified for specificity, accuracy, repeatability, intermediate precision, and linearity. This assay not only serves as a bioassay for LT activity, but has applications for characterization and quality control of anti-PA therapeutic antibodies or other products that target the AP-1 signaling pathway.