Background: Scorpion neurotoxins such as those that modify the mammalian voltage-gated sodium ion channels (Nav) are the main responsible for scorpion envenomation. Their neutralization is crucial in the production of antivenoms against scorpion stings. Methods: In the present study, two in silico designed genes - one that codes for a native neurotoxin from the venom of the Anatolian scorpion Androctonus crassicauda, named Acra 4 - and another non-native toxin - named consensus scorpion toxin (SccTx) obtained from the alignment of the primary structures of the most toxic neurotoxins from the Middle Eastern and North African scorpions - were recombinantly expressed in E. coli Origami. Results: Following bacterial expression, the two expressed neurotoxins, hereafter named HisrAcra4 and HisrSccTx, were obtained from inclusion bodies. Both recombinant neurotoxins were obtained in multiple Cys-Cys isoforms. After refolding, the active protein fractions were identified with molecular masses of 8,947.6 and 9,989.1 Da for HisrAcra4 and HisrSccTx, respectively, which agreed with their expected theoretical masses. HisrAcra4 and HisrSccTx were used as antigens to immunize two groups of rabbits, to produce either anti-HisrAcra4 or anti-HisrSccTx serum antibodies, which in turn could recognize and neutralize neurotoxins from venoms of scorpion species from the Middle East and North Africa. The antibodies obtained from rabbits neutralized the 3LD50 of Androctonus australis, Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus and Buthus occitanus venoms, but they did not neutralize A. crassicauda and A. mauritanicus venoms. In addition, the anti-HisrAcra4 antibodies did not neutralize any of the five scorpion venoms tested. However, an antibody blend of anti-HisrAcra4 and anti-HisrSccTx was able to neutralize A. crassicauda and A. mauritanicus venoms. Conclusions: Two recombinant Nav neurotoxins, from different peptide families, were used as antigens to generate IgGs for neutralizing scorpion venoms of species from the Middle East and North Africa.
Keywords: Androctonus; Antibodies; Protein expression; Scorpion venom.