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Residual enzymatic activity of the tetanus toxin light chain present in tetanus toxoid batches used for vaccine production

Elsevier Ltd
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2008.05.014
  • Tetanus Toxoid
  • Residual Proteolytic Activity
  • Synaptobrevin
  • Biology


Abstract The light chain of tetanus neurotoxin (TeNT) is a zinc-dependent metalloprotease which specifically cleaves the synaptic vesicle protein synaptobrevin. This crucial mechanism of tetanus toxicity leads to a blockade of inhibitory neurotransmitter release. We recently reported the development of a highly sensitive endopeptidase assay for the specific in vitro detection of active TeNT based on this proteolytic feature. Using this method, we could show that formaldehyde-inactivated TeNT preparations (toxoids), which are used for the production of tetanus vaccines, contain a high residual synaptobrevin-cleaving activity. Such an activity was detected in numerous tetanus toxoid batches obtained from several vaccine manufacturers which did not display any in vivo toxicity in the obligatory animal tests. The enzymatic activity could be attributed to the presence of free TeNT light chains whose function had not been restrained by the formaldehyde treatment, but which lack the functional heavy chain necessary for entering neurons in vivo. To our knowledge, this is the first report describing a residual proteolytic activity in tetanus toxoids.

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