Abrin is a highly potent and naturally occurring toxin produced in the seeds of Abrus precatorius
(Rosary Pea) and is of concern as a potential bioterrorism weapon. There are many rapid and specific assay methods to detect this toxic plant protein, but few are based on detection of toxin activity, critical to discern biologically active toxin that disables ribosomes and thereby inhibits protein synthesis, producing cytotoxic effects in multiple organ systems, from degraded or inactivated toxin which is not a threat. A simple and low-cost CCD detector system was evaluated with colorimetric and fluorometric cell-based assays for abrin activity; in the first instance measuring the abrin suppression of mitochondrial dehydrogenase in Vero cells by the MTT-formazan method and in the second instance measuring the abrin suppression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression in transduced Vero and HeLa cells. The limit of detection using the colorimetric assay was 10 pg/mL which was comparable to the fluorometric assay using HeLa cells. However, with GFP transduced Vero cells a hundred-fold improvement in sensitivity was achieved. Results were comparable to those using a more expensive commercial plate reader. Thermal inactivation of abrin was studied in PBS and in milk using the GFP-Vero cell assay. Inactivation at 100 °C for 5 min in both media was complete only at the lowest concentration studied (0.1 ng/mL) while treatment at 63 °C for 30 min was effective in PBS but not milk.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited