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Neutralization of Clostridium difficile toxin B with VHH-Fc fusions targeting the delivery and CROPs domains

Hussack, G;Ryan, S;van Faassen, H;Rossotti, M;MacKenzie, CR;Tanha, J;

An increasing number of antibody-based therapies are being considered for controlling bacterial infections, including Clostridium difficile by targeting toxins A and B. In an effort to develop novel C. difficile immunotherapeutics, we previously isolated several single-domain antibodies (VHHs) capable of toxin A neutralization through recognition of the extreme C-terminal combined repetitive oligopeptides (CROPs) domain, but failed at identifying neutralizing VHHs that bound a similar region on toxin B. Here we report the isolation of a panel of 29 VHHs targeting at least seven unique epitopes on a toxin B immunogen composed of a portion of the central delivery domain and the entire CROPs domain. Despite monovalent affinities as high as KD = 70 pM, none of the VHHs tested were capable of toxin B neutralization; however, modest toxin B inhibition was observed with VHH-VHH dimers and to a much greater extent with VHH-Fc fusions, reaching the neutralizing potency of the recently approved anti-toxin B monoclonal antibody bezlotoxumab in in vitro assays. Epitope binning revealed that several VHH-Fcs bound toxin B at sites distinct from the region recognized by bezlotoxumab, while other VHH-Fcs partially competed with bezlotoxumab for toxin binding. Therefore, the VHHs described here are effective at toxin B neutralization when formatted as bivalent VHH-Fc fusions by targeting toxin B at regions both similar and distinct from the bezlotoxumab binding site.