“BINACLE” assay for in vitro detection of active tetanus neurotoxin in toxoids

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Heike A. Behrensdorf-Nicol
Karin Weisser
Beate Krämer


Tetanus neurotoxin (TeNT) consists of two protein chains connected by a disulfide bond: The heavy chain mediates the toxin binding and uptake by neurons, whereas the light chain cleaves synaptobrevin and thus blocks neurotransmitter release. Chemically inactivated TeNT (tetanus toxoid) is utilized for the production of tetanus vaccines. For safety reasons, each toxoid bulk has to be tested for the “absence of toxin and irreversibility of toxoid.” To date, these mandatory toxicity tests are performed in guinea pigs. A replacement by an animal-free method for the detection of TeNT would be desirable.
The BINACLE (BINding And CLEavage) assay takes into account the receptor-binding as well as the proteolytic characteristics of TeNT: The toxin is bound to immobilized receptor molecules, the light chains are then released by reduction and transferred to a microplate containing synaptobrevin, and the fragment resulting from TeNT-induced cleavage is detected by an antibody-mediated reaction. This assay offers a higher specificity for discriminating between toxic TeNT and inactivated toxoid molecules than other published assays.
Validation studies have shown that the BINACLE assay allows the sensitive and robust detection of TeNT in toxoids and thus may represent a suitable alternative to the prescribed animal safety tests for toxoids from several European vaccine manufacturers. Product-specific validations (and possibly adaptations) of the assay protocol will be required.
A European collaborative study is currently being initiated to further examine the applicability of the method for toxoid testing. The final aim is the inclusion of the method in the European Pharmacopoeia.

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How to Cite
Behrensdorf-Nicol, H. A., Weisser, K. and Krämer, B. (2015) “‘BINACLE’ assay for in vitro detection of active tetanus neurotoxin in toxoids”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 32(2), pp. 137–142. doi: 10.14573/altex.1412181.