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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2005 Sep 1;207(2):138-46.

Specific dose-dependent damage of Lieberkühn crypts promoted by large doses of type 2 ribosome-inactivating protein nigrin b intravenous injection to mice.

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Departamento de Biología Celular, Histología y Farmacología, Universidad de Valladolid, 47005 Valladolid, Spain.


Nigrin b is a non-toxic type 2 ribosome-inactivating protein as active as ricin at ribosomal level but 10(5) and 5 x 10(3) times less toxic for animal cell cultures and mice, respectively, than ricin. The purpose of the present study was to analyze the effects of intravenous injection of large amounts of nigrin b to the mouse. Injection through the tail vein of 16 mg/kg body weight killed all mice studied before 2 days. Analysis of several major tissues by light microscopy did not reveal gross nigrin b-promoted changes, except in the intestines which appeared highly damaged. As a consequence of the injury, the villi and crypt structures of the small intestine disappeared, leading to profuse bleeding and death. In contrast, intravenous injection of 5 mg/kg body weight was not lethal to mice but did trigger reversible toxic effects. In both cases, lethal and sub-lethal doses, the target of nigrin b appeared to be the highly proliferating stem cells of the intestinal crypts, which had undergone apoptotic changes. In contrast to nigrin b, the injection of 3 mug/kg of ricin kills all mice in 5 days but does not trigger apoptosis in the crypts. Therefore, the effect seen with sub-lethal nigrin b concentrations seems to be specific. Nigrin b killed COLO 320 human colon adenocarcinoma cells with an IC(50) of 3.1 x 10(-8) M and the effect was parallel to the extent of DNA fragmentation of these cells. Accordingly, despite the low general toxicity exerted by nigrin b as compared with ricin, intravenous injection of large amounts of nigrin b is able to kill mouse intestinal stem cells without threatening the lives of the animals, thereby opening a door for its use for the targeting of intestinal stem cells.

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