We have synthesized four immunotoxins (ITs) by covalently coupling the A chain of ricin to murine monoclonal antibodies that recognize surface antigens on human T cells. Treatment of human peripheral blood lymphocytes with either 10.2-A, directed against the CD5 (Tp67) antigen, or 64.1-A, directed against the CD3 (Tp19) antigen, abolished protein synthesis in cells subsequently cultured with phytohemagglutinin (PHA). In contrast, two other ITs (9.6-A and 35.1-A), both directed against the CD2 (Tp50) antigen, had minimal effects on protein synthesis in PHA-stimulated cells. The binding of each IT to T cells was shown by immunofluorescence with fluorescein-conjugated goat anti-mouse immunoglobulin (FITC-GAMIg) and fluorescein-conjugated rabbit anti-ricin A-chain (FITC-RAR) antibodies. Activity of the ricin A chain in each IT was demonstrated by its ability to inhibit protein synthesis in a cell-free reticulocyte lysate assay. Ultrastructural immunoperoxidase analysis of IT internalization showed that ineffective and effective ITs were endocytosed at the same rate (50% of cells had labeled endosomes after 15 min). However, ineffective IT 35.1-A was more rapidly delivered to lysosomes (15-30 min) than effective ITs (10.2-A and 64.1-A) (≥30 min). The data support the hypothesis that there are several distinct pathways for internalization of ITs and that the ability of ricin A chain to reach and inactivate ribosomes may depend upon the specific membrane receptor involved in binding a given IT, its route of internalization, and the rate of entry of the IT into lysosomes.
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