Anthrax Protective Antigen 63 (PA63): Toxic Effects in Neural Cultures and Role in
Gulf War Illness

Gulf War Illness (GWI)

Shortly after the Gulf War (1990^aEUR"91), veterans started to report a variety of health problems that began during, or soon after returning from, deployment, prompting investigation into the epidemiology and etiology of the complaints. Those investigations revealed that diffuse symptoms such as fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, mood and neurocognitive complaints, gastrointestinal problems, and rashes were most commonly reported. The constellation of symptoms, now commonly referred to as Gulf War Illness (GWI), has affected a substantial number of Gulf War veterans. Several population-based studies have demonstrated that these symptoms occur at significantly higher rates in deployed Gulf War veterans relative to their nondeployed peers and other veterans, raising the issue about possible in-theater exposures and stress as contributing factors. However, these symptoms are also present in non-deployed military personnel, leading some to suspect other causes, including reactions to vaccine adjuvants. In summary, GWI is now a recognized constellation of symptoms of unclear etiology, also co-occurring with psychiatric disorders.

Protective antigen (PA) 63 (PA63) is a protein derived from the PA83 component contained in the anthrax vaccine. The anthrax vaccine ("Biothrax") was administered together with other vaccines to Gulf War veterans, about 35% of whom later developed a multisymptom disease (
Gulf War Illness

Gulf War Illness (GWI)

Shortly after the Gulf War (1990^aEUR"91), veterans started to report a variety of health problems that began during, or soon after returning from, deployment, prompting investigation into the epidemiology and etiology of the complaints. Those investigations revealed that diffuse symptoms such as fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, mood and neurocognitive complaints, gastrointestinal problems, and rashes were most commonly reported. The constellation of symptoms, now commonly referred to as Gulf War Illness (GWI), has affected a substantial number of Gulf War veterans. Several population-based studies have demonstrated that these symptoms occur at significantly higher rates in deployed Gulf War veterans relative to their nondeployed peers and other veterans, raising the issue about possible in-theater exposures and stress as contributing factors. However, these symptoms are also present in non-deployed military personnel, leading some to suspect other causes, including reactions to vaccine adjuvants. In summary, GWI is now a recognized constellation of symptoms of unclear etiology, also co-occurring with psychiatric disorders.
[
GWI

Gulf War Illness (GWI)

Shortly after the Gulf War (1990^aEUR"91), veterans started to report a variety of health problems that began during, or soon after returning from, deployment, prompting investigation into the epidemiology and etiology of the complaints. Those investigations revealed that diffuse symptoms such as fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, mood and neurocognitive complaints, gastrointestinal problems, and rashes were most commonly reported. The constellation of symptoms, now commonly referred to as Gulf War Illness (GWI), has affected a substantial number of Gulf War veterans. Several population-based studies have demonstrated that these symptoms occur at significantly higher rates in deployed Gulf War veterans relative to their nondeployed peers and other veterans, raising the issue about possible in-theater exposures and stress as contributing factors. However, these symptoms are also present in non-deployed military personnel, leading some to suspect other causes, including reactions to vaccine adjuvants. In summary, GWI is now a recognized constellation of symptoms of unclear etiology, also co-occurring with psychiatric disorders.
]), with prominent neurological/cognitive/mood symptoms, among others. The disease has been traditionally attributed to exposures to toxic chemicals during the war but other factors could be involved, including vaccines received. Of these, the anthrax vaccine is the most toxic. Here, we assessed directly the PA63 toxin's harmful effects on cultured neuroblastoma 2A (N2A) cells with respect to cell spreading, process formation, apoptosis, and integrity of cell membrane, cytoskeleton, and mitochondria. We found that, when added in N2A cultures, PA63 toxin led to decreased cell spreading and cell aggregation, leading to apoptosis. The mechanisms of PA63-induced cell damage included compromised cell membrane permeability indicated by enhanced access of propidium iodide in cells. In addition, signaling pathways leading to organization of N2A cytoskeleton were negatively affected, as both actin and microtubular networks were compromised. Finally, the mitochondrial membrane potential was impaired in specific assays. Altogether, these alterations led to apoptosis as a collective toxic effect of PA63 which was substantially reduced by the concomitant addition of specific antibodies against PA63.