Background:Mechanisms of antibody-mediated neutralization are of much interest. For plant and bacterial A-B toxins, A chain mediates toxicity and B chain binds target cells. It is generally accepted and taught that antibody (Ab) neutralizes by preventing toxin binding to cells. Yet for some toxins, ricin included, anti-A chain Abs afford greater protection than anti-B. The mechanism(s) whereby Abs to the A chain neutralize toxins are not understood.Methodology/Principal Findings:We use quantitative confocal imaging, neutralization assays, and other techniques to study how anti-A chain Abs function to protect cells. Without Ab, ricin enters cells and penetrates to the endoplasmic reticulum within 15 min. Within 45-60 min, ricin entering and being expelled from cells reaches equilibrium. These results are consistent with previous observations, and support the validity of our novel methodology. The addition of neutralizing Ab causes ricin accumulation at the cell surface, delays internalization, and postpones retrograde transport of ricin. Ab binds ricin for >6hr as they traffic together through the cell. Ab protects cells even when administered hours after exposure.Conclusions/Key Findings:We demonstrate the dynamic nature of the interaction between the host cell and toxin, and how Ab can alter the balance in favor of the cell. Ab blocks ricin's entry into cells, hinders its intracellular routing, and can protect even after ricin is present in the target organelle, providing evidence that the major site of neutralization is intracellular. These data add toxins to the list of pathogenic agents that can be neutralized intracellularly and explain the in vivo efficacy of delayed administration of anti-toxin Abs. The results encourage the use of post-exposure passive Ab therapy, and show the importance of the A chain as a target of Abs.
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