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Infection and Immunity


The neutralizing antibody response to the protective antigen (PA) component of anthrax toxin elicited by approved anthrax vaccines is an accepted correlate for vaccine-mediated protection against anthrax. We reasoned that a human anti-PA monoclonal antibody (MAb) selected on the basis of superior toxin neutralization activity might provide potent protection against anthrax. The fully human MAb (also referred to as MDX-1303 or Valortim) was chosen from a large panel of anti-PA human MAbs generated using transgenic mice immunized with recombinant PA solely on the basis of in vitro anthrax toxin neutralization. This MAb was effective in prophylactic and postsymptomatic treatment of rabbits exposed to aerosolized anthrax spores, and a single intramuscular injection of 1 mg/kg of body weight fully protected cynomolgus monkeys challenged with aerosolized anthrax spores. Importantly, MAb 1303 defines a novel neutralizing epitope that requires Fc receptor engagement for maximal activity. F(ab′)2 fragments of MAb 1303, which retain equivalent affinity for PA, are 10- to 100-fold less potent in neutralizing anthrax toxin in vitro. Addition of Fc receptor-blocking antibodies also greatly reduced the activity of MAb 1303. Moreover, we found that the neutralizing activity of mouse, rabbit, and human antisera elicited by PA vaccines was effectively abrogated by blocking Fc receptors. Selection of an anti-PA MAb by using a functional assay that is a surrogate for protection has resulted in the identification of a fully human MAb with potent activity in vivo and uncovered a previously unrecognized mechanism of antibody-mediated toxin neutralization that is important for currently used anthrax vaccines.