The therapeutic efficacy of whole ricin, or recombinant ricin A chain, coupled to a monoclonal antibody that reacts with the idiotype of the surface IgM expressed on guinea pig L2C lymphoblasts, was assessed. In vitro studies were done to characterize the immunotoxins (IT) and to demonstrate their specificity before use in vivo. The concentration of whole ricin IT (M6-Ricin) that inhibited protein synthesis by 50% (IC50) in L2C cells was 1.4 X 10(-9) M, in a 5-hr assay, in the presence of lactose to block non-antibody-directed toxicity. M6-Ricin did not inhibit protein synthesis in two control guinea pig cell lines that did not express the idiotype, nor did a whole ricin IT prepared with an isotype-matched monoclonal antibody of irrelevant specificity inhibit protein synthesis in L2C cells. Two recombinant ricin A chain IT, which differed from one another by a factor of 2 to 3 in the number of A chains conjugated per antibody molecule, were less effective in vitro than M6-Ricin (IC50 of greater than 5 X 10(-8) M). For in vivo experiments, the IT were given by the i.p. route 24 hr after the i.p. inoculation of 1 X 10(5) L2C cells. The highest doses of M6-Ricin and M6-Ricin A chain IT tested, 30 micrograms/kg and 3000 micrograms/kg, respectively, were within fourfold to fivefold of their maximum tolerated doses; no deaths or ill effects due to ricin toxicity were noted. These doses increased the median survival time of L2C-bearing guinea pigs to 31 to 34 days, compared with 15 days for untreated animals. This magnitude of increase in survival indicates that 99.999% (5 logs) of injected tumor cells were eliminated, thus accounting for the 12% long-term survival rate obtained. Median survival times for guinea pigs treated with 30 micrograms/kg of the A chain IT were 18 and 21 days for the two conjugates tested, and the median survival for guinea pigs treated with 3000 micrograms/kg of unconjugated antibody was 18 days. Our data demonstrate that recombinant A chain IT are active in vivo and that the B chain of ricin can potentiate IT activity in vivo. Although the potency differs by 100-fold, the therapeutic index of the intact ricin IT is similar to that of the ricin A chain IT.

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