List Biological Laboratories’ (List Labs) catalog of products is related to furthering research in human health and preventing disease, most commonly as the starting materials for vaccine research & development or production around the world. Vaccines are mainly identified for their capacity to prevent diseases that the body’s innate defensive mechanisms (the skin and specialized cells in the blood, for example) can’t resist unaided. However, there are many other uses for these purified materials in medical research, and you will likely encounter wording on our website that is not part of everyday vocabulary for non-scientists. This article is intended to provide a basic understanding of some of the more frequently used terms and aid you in selecting the products most essential to your projects.
Toxin vs. Toxoid
For starters, what is the difference between “toxin” and “toxoid”. Broadly defined, anything that can cause harm to an organism is a toxin. However, for List Labs’ products and in biological usage, a toxin refers to a bacterial or viral product that has harmful effects when it enters the body (List Labs’ toxins are in a highly purified form). A toxoid is a chemically altered toxin that has reduced or no toxicity and is used for its remaining antigenic activity, which can stimulate an immune response.
Take, for example, cholera, a disease produced by Vibrio cholerae bacteria, possibly through contact with body fluids from a person ill with cholera or through contaminated water supply. Cholera causes severe diarrhea, and untreated, it can be fatal. However, the purified List Labs’ cholera toxin by chemical modification becomes a toxoid that lacks toxic activity but retains structures that make it useful for immunization of research animals or stimulation of immune cells in vitro.
How do Toxoids Impact the Immune Process?
To understand how some List Labs products work, an overview of the immune process is helpful. During the course of a day, we frequently touch, ingest, or breathe in something that has potential to harm the body. Our cells react to this invader: is this a threat, or not, and if so, how serious is the threat?
What is the Innate Immune Response?
The innate immune response is the first order of defense in the immune process. There are many different cell types in our body. Some of these cells are equipped by their structural and biochemical components to destroy dangerous microbial invaders–pathogens–quickly. The inflammation that we experience from minor infections is often a sign of this process as cells from the blood destroy the pathogen. This happens quickly, within hours.
What is the Adaptive Immune Response?
Another cellular response system requires a longer time to react to the threat. These cells react by changing from an inactive form to one that will start a more complex defensive process: this is the second step, the adaptive immune response. There are two different classes of cells that comprise the adaptive immune response; they differ by the structures that give them their ability to bind antigens– the invading bacteria and viruses. Both these cells are called lymphocytes; individually, they are the B-lymphocytes (B-cells) and T-lymphocytes (T-cells). Both originate from stem cells in the bone marrow; B and T refer to the place in the body where they mature. T-cells mature in the thymus into several subclasses of T-cells that circulate in the blood and lymph. “Killer” T-cells recognize foreign antigens on cell surfaces (e.g. from viral infection or malignancy). “Helper” T-cells induce B-cells to produce antibodies. “Suppressor” T-cells dampen or regulate the immune response to prevent over-reaction. B-cells mature in the bone marrow and migrate to secondary lymphoid tissues (e.g. spleen and lymph nodes). When they encounter foreign antigens and/or helper T-cells, they are stimulated to divide and expand clonally to produce antibodies and differentiate into plasma cells.
What is Immune Memory?
After the B and T-lymphocytes react to an antigen, two results are possible. The first, and desirable result, is that the invader is identified and defeated, leaving behind what might be called its criminal record: immune memory. When the antigen comes creeping back in the future, the adaptive immune system recognizes it and attacks. The second possibility is an over-reaction and lack of cessation of the adaptive immune process that is harmful to the body: an autoimmunecondition.
Antigens, Epitopes and Vaccines
Where do vaccines come into this process? An antigen is a substance that causes the body to mount an immune response against it. Antigens include toxins, bacteria, viruses, or other substances that the body recognizes as foreign or not “self”. Vaccines have structural features similar to structures of the toxin or invading pathogen that can elicit adaptive immunity.
An epitope is a specific molecular region on the surface of an antigen, typically one of many on the antigen, that elicits an immune response and is capable of binding with the specific antibody produced by the response. A toxin has many epitopes that can be recognized by the immune response. The epitopes that are required for toxicity have been altered chemically in toxoids or by specific genetic mutations in inactive mutants; however, many epitopes are retained and can stimulate an adaptive or memory immune response that will be effective against the toxin.
Toxins and Toxoid Products for Research
Below is a list of toxin and toxoid or inactive mutant pairs of products available to support your research.
Toxin and product numbers
Botulinum Neurotoxin Type A from Clostridiumbotulinum – 130A, 130B, 9130A
Vaccines have been used to help control diseases for more than 200 years and are the common practice for children and adults. Childhood vaccination has substantially reduced the morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases in much of the developed world, and influenza vaccinations have reduced the impact of seasonal influenza infections.1 However, medical researchers are constantly looking for ways to improve the vaccines that are already used, and develop new ones.
Opportunities for improvement of vaccines abound. For example, although much attention is given to child vaccinations, a reservoir of infection could be eliminated through promotion of adult booster shots such as pertussis booster shots for expectant mothers and close family members, to help protect susceptible newborns. In addition, some diseases that have vaccines currently available still flourish in areas of the world where infrastructures for vaccination are poor and are too costly or cannot be delivered in their current forms.1 Researchers are still trying to develop vaccines for other important diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and leishmaniasis. Vaccines are also being developed for bacterial pathogens, such as Vibrio cholerae O1 and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) that are responsible for a high proportion of diarrheal disease and death in adults and children in many countries in Africa and Asia.2
By modifying the factors included in the vaccine, researchers balance the effectiveness of the immune response with the side effects. Previously, whole cell vaccines containing whole organisms that had been chemically inactivated were the norm, but the side effects of fever and discomfort following injections were much more common. Many of the vaccines used today, including those for measles and some influenza vaccines, use live, attenuated viruses. Others use killed forms of viruses, pieces of bacteria (lipopolysaccharides), or inactivated forms of bacterial toxins, known as “toxoids.” Killed viruses, lipopolysaccharides and toxoids can evoke an immune response that protects against future infection.3 Acellular vaccines were introduced in the late 1990’s that contain either three or five key bacterial proteins and have been quite effective in protecting infants and children under four with a much lower rate of side effects.
List Labs offers several virulence factors which are used in vaccine testing. For testing C. difficile vaccines; available reagents are C. difficile Toxin A (Product #152), C. difficile Toxin B (Product #155), C. difficile Toxoid A (Product #153), C. difficile Toxoid B (Product #154), and both subunits of the Binary Toxin (Products #157 and #158). Numerous Bordetella pertussis virulence factors are available for use in testing including: Products #179, #180 or #181 Pertussis Toxin, Product #170 FHA, Product #186 Fimbriae, Product #187 Pertactin, Product #188 and #189 Adenylate Cyclase and Product #400 Highly Purified B. pertussis LPS. Anthrax vaccine testing maybe carried out using Protective Antigen (Product #171) with Lethal Factor (Product #172) in a toxin neutralization assay. Although these factors are not suitable for testing on humans, they are excellent research tools.
Inactive toxins are quite useful in making antibodies or in capturing antibodies from a vaccinated population on ELISA plates. Three of our inactivated toxins, which carry mutations in the toxin active site, are B. pertussisAdenylate Cyclase Toxoid, Pertussis Toxin Mutant, Product #184 and CRM197, a non-toxic Mutant Diphtheria Toxin, Product #149. Toxoids made by formaldehyde treatment of toxins include versions of C difficile Toxins (Products #153 and #154), Diphtheria Toxoid (Product #151), Staphylococcus aureus Enterotoxoid B (Product #123), Tetanus Toxoid (Product #191) and Toxoids of Botulinum Neurotoxins A and B (Product #133 and #139, respectively).
Hammond B., Sipics M., Youngdhal K., (2013). From the History of Vaccines, a project of the college of physician of Philadelphia. ISBN: 9780988623101
Svennerholm AM., (2011) From Cholera to Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) vaccine development. Indian J Med Res. 133(2): 188–194. PMID: 21415493
Leitner DR., Feichter S., Schild-Prüfert K., Rechberger GN., Reidl J., Schild S., (2013) Lipopolysaccharide modifications of a cholera vaccine candidate based on outer membrane vesicles reduce endotoxicity and reveal the major protective antigen. Infect Immun 81(7):2379-93. PMID: 23630951