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Anthrax toxin is a key virulence factor for Bacillus anthracis. The cell-binding component of anthrax toxin, protective antigen (PA), mediates the entry of the toxin into cells by first binding to the extracellular von Willebrand factor A (VWA) domain of the cellular anthrax toxin receptor (ATR). Herein, we targeted the VWA domain of the cellular receptor to develop a more effective antitoxin agent for neutralization of anthrax toxin. We selected ATR-binding peptides by using a phage display: among these, we identified two novel peptides binding to the ATR with high affinity and specificity, and that neutralized anthrax toxicity in cells. Furthermore, to enhance the functional efficiency of the probes, the peptides were modified and conjugated to three polyvalent probe backbones: a 17 amino-acid-based cyclic form penta-unit, poly-d-lysine (PDL), or the M13 bacteriophage. One of the functionally modified polyvalent peptide probes, the penta-unit-conjugated probe (PUCP) produced the most potent neutralization of anthrax toxin, with half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 20 nM. The PUCP disrupted anthrax toxin binding to its receptor and reduced endocytosis of anthrax toxin. This peptide-based approach may, therefore, represent a promising strategy to combat anthrax toxicosis and other bacterial diseases and may be efficient for disease treatment. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Sang-Choon Lee, Moon-Young Yoon. Development of a receptor-based inhibitory penta-unit-conjugated peptide to enhance anthrax toxin neutralization. International journal of biological macromolecules. 2020 Nov 15;163:327-335

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PMID: 32619663

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