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Toxicol Lett. 2015 Sep 2;237(2):72-8. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2015.06.003. Epub 2015 Jun 5.

Antibody treatment against pulmonary exposure to abrin confers significantly higher levels of protection than treatment against ricin intoxication.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Israel Institute for Biological Research, Ness-Ziona, Israel.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Israel Institute for Biological Research, Ness-Ziona, Israel. Electronic address:


Abrin, a potent plant-derived toxin bearing strong resemblance to ricin, irreversibly inactivates ribosomes by site-specific depurination, thereby precipitating cessation of protein synthesis in cells. Due to its high availability and ease of preparation, abrin is considered a biological threat, especially in context of bioterror warfare. To date, there is no established therapeutic countermeasure against abrin intoxication. In the present study, we examined the progress of pulmonary abrin intoxication in mice, evaluated the protective effect of antibody-based post-exposure therapy, and compared these findings to those observed for ricin intoxication and therapy. Salient features of abrin intoxication were found to be similar to those of ricin and include massive recruitment of neutrophils to the lungs, high levels of pro-inflammatory markers in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and damage of the alveolar-capillary barrier. In contrast, the protective effect of anti-abrin antibody treatment was found to differ significantly from that of anti-ricin treatment. While anti-ricin treatment efficiency was quite limited even at 24h post-exposure (34% protection), administration of polyclonal anti-abrin antibodies even as late as 72h post-exposure, conferred exceedingly high-level protection (>70%). While both anti-toxin antibody treatments caused neutrophil and macrophage levels in the lungs to revert to normal, only anti-abrin treatment brought about a significant decline in the pulmonary levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6. The differential ability of the anti-toxin treatments to dampen inflammation caused by the two similar toxins, abrin and ricin, could explain the radically different levels of protection achieved following antibody treatment.


Abrin; Antibodies; BALF; IL-6; Pulmonary; Ricin

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