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Hydrogen-Deuterium Exchange Mass Spectrometry Reveals a Novel Binding Region of a Neutralizing Fully Human Monoclonal Antibody to Anthrax Protective Antigen

Fang, M;Wang, Z;Norris, K;James, JA;Wu, S;Smith, K;

Anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) containing protective antigen (PA) is the only FDA-approved anthrax vaccine in the United States. Characterization of the binding of AVA-induced anti-PA human antibodies against the PA antigen after vaccination is crucial to understanding mechanisms of the AVA-elicited humoral immune response. Hydrogen deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS) is often coupled with a short liquid chromatography gradient (e.g., 5-10 min) for the characterization of protein interactions. We recently developed a long-gradient (e.g., 90 min), sub-zero temperature, ultra-high performance liquid chromatography HDX-MS (UPLC-HDX-MS) platform that has significantly increased separation power and limited back-exchange for the analysis of protein samples with high complexity. In this study, we demonstrated the utility of this platform for mapping antibody-antigen epitopes by examining four fully human monoclonal antibodies to anthrax PA. Antibody p1C03, with limited neutralizing activity in vivo, bound to a region on domain 1A of PA. p6C04 and p1A06, with no neutralizing activities, bound to the same helix on domain 3 to prevent oligomerization of PA. We found p6C01 strongly bound to domain 3 on a different helix region. We also identified a secondary epitope for p6C01, which likely leads to the blocking of furin cleavage of PA after p6C01 binding. This novel binding of p6C01 results in highly neutralizing activity. This is the first report of this distinct binding mechanism for a highly neutralizing fully human antibody to anthrax protective antigen. Studying such epitopes can facilitate the development of novel therapeutics against anthrax.