US Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Clinical and Vaccine Immunology 20(1) p. 56–65 (January 2013); doi:10.1128/CVI.00550-12


Bacillus anthracis spores are the infectious form of the organism for humans and animals. However, the approved human vaccine in the United States is derived from a vegetative culture filtrate of a toxigenic, nonencapsulated B. anthracis strain that primarily contains protective antigen (PA). Immunization of mice with purified spore proteins and formalin-inactivated spores (FIS) from a nonencapsulated, nontoxigenic B. anthracis strain confers protection against B. anthracis challenge when PA is also administered. To investigate the capacity of the spore particle to act as a vaccine without PA, we immunized mice subcutaneously with FIS from nontoxigenic, nonencapsulated B. cereus strain G9241 pBCXO1 ̅ /pBC210 ̅ (dcG9241), dcG9241 ΔbclA, or 569-UM20 or with exosporium isolated from dcG9241. FIS vaccination provided significant protection of mice from intraperitoneal or intranasal challenge with spores of the virulent B. anthracis Ames or Ames ΔbclA strain. Immunization with dcG9241 ΔbclA FIS, which are devoid of the immunodominant spore protein BclA, provided greater protection from challenge with either Ames strain than did immunization with FIS from BclA-producing strains. In addition, we used prechallenge immune antisera to probe a panel of recombinant B. anthracis Sterne spore proteins to identify novel immunogenic vaccine candidates. The antisera were variably reactive with BclA and with 10 other proteins, four of which were previously tested as vaccine candidates. Overall our data show that immunization with FIS from nontoxigenic, nonencapsulated B. cereus strains provides moderate to high levels of protection of mice from B. anthracis Ames challenge and that neither PA nor BclA is required for this protection.