Design and expression of recombinant toxins from Mexican scorpions of the genus Centruroidesfor production of antivenoms

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This manuscript describes the design of plasmids containing the genes coding for four main mammalian toxins of scorpions from the genus Centruroides (C.) of Mexico. The genes that code for toxin 2 of C. noxius (Cn2), toxin 2 from C. suffusus (Css2) and toxins 1 and 2 from C. limpidus (Cll1 and Cll2) were included into individual plasmids carrying the genetic construction for expression of fusion proteins containing a leader peptide (pelB) that directs the expressed protein to the bacterial periplasm, a carrier protein (thioredoxin), the cleavage site for enterokinase, the chosen toxin and a poly-histidine tag (6xHis-tag) for purification of the hybrid protein by immobilized metal ion affinity chromatography after expression in Escherichia coli strain BL21 (DE3). The purified hybrid proteins containing the recombinant toxins (abbreviated Thio-EK-Toxin) were used for immunization of three independent groups of ten mice and four rabbits. Challenging the first group of mice, immunized with recombinant Thio-EK-Css2, with three median lethal doses (LD50) of C. suffusus soluble venom resulted in the survival of all the test animals without showing intoxication symptoms. All control mice (none immunized) died. Similar results were obtained with mice previously immunized with Thio-EK-Cn2 and challenged with C. noxius venom. The third group of mice immunized with both Thio-EK-Cll1 and Thio-EK-Cll2 showed an 80% survival ratio when challenged with only one LD50 of C. limpidus venom, all showing symptoms of intoxication. The sera from rabbits immunized with a combination of the four recombinant toxins were collected separately and used to assess their neutralization capacity in vitro (pre-incubating the serum with the respective scorpion venom and injecting the mixture into mice), using six mice for each serum/venom combination tested. The venoms from the six most dangerous scorpion species of Mexico were assayed: C. noxius, C. suffusus, C. limpidus, C. elegans, C. tecomanus and C. sculpturatus. Two hundred and 50 μL of serum from any of the immunized rabbits were enough to neutralize three LD50 of any of the tested venoms, with mice showing no symptoms of intoxication. These results confirm that the recombinant forms of the main toxins from the most dangerous scorpions of Mexico are excellent immunogens for the production of antivenoms to treat scorpion intoxications.

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