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Anal Chem. 2011 Dec 1;83(23):9047-53. doi: 10.1021/ac201910q. Epub 2011 Nov 4.

Quantification of botulinum neurotoxin serotypes A and B from serum using mass spectrometry.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Highway, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNT) are the deadliest agents known. Previously, we reported an endopeptidase activity based method (Endopep-MS) that detects and differentiates BoNT serotypes A-G. This method uses serotype specific monoclonal antibodies and the specific enzymatic activity of BoNT against peptide substrates which mimic the toxin's natural target. Cleavage products from the reaction are detected by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. We have now developed a multiple reaction monitoring method to quantify the biological activity of BoNT serotypes A (BoNT/A) and B (BoNT/B) present in 0.5 mL of serum using electrospray mass spectrometry. The limit of quantification for each serotype is 1 mouse intraperitoneal lethal dose (MIPLD(50)) corresponding to 31 pg of BoNT/A and 15 pg of BoNT/B in this study. This method was applied to serum from rhesus macaques with inhalational botulism following exposure to BoNT/B, showing a maximum activity of 6.0 MIPLD(50)/mL in surviving animals and 653.6 MIPLD(50)/mL in animals that died in the study. The method detects BoNT/B in serum 2-5 h after exposure and up to 14 days. This is the first report of a quantitative method with sufficient sensitivity, selectivity, and low sample size requirements to measure circulating BoNT activity at multiple times during the course of botulism.

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