Targeting Talk: Toxin Safety

Safety Instructions

Good laboratory technique must be employed for the safe handling of this product. This requires observation of the following practices:

  1. Wear appropriate laboratory attire, including lab coat, gloves and safety glasses.
  2. Do not pipet by mouth, inhale, ingest or allow product to come into contact with open wounds. Wash thoroughly any part of the body which comes into contact with the product.
  3. Avoid accidental autoinjection by exercising extreme care when handling in conjunction with any injection device.
  4. This product is intended for research use by qualified personnel only. It is not intended for use in humans or as a diagnostic agent. Advanced Targeting Systems is not liable for any damages resulting from the misuse or handling of this product.

For disposal: autoclave, or expose to 0.2 M NaOH, materials that come into contact with the toxin.

We’re submitting a protocol to our IACUC to use IB4-SAP (Cat. #IT-10). We plan to inject the targeted toxin and then sacrifice the animal ten days later. What, if any, are the safety issues here?

The only danger to lab personnel from IB4-SAP would be accidental self-injection, and even then, at the doses typically used in rats, it would only produce very localized effects at the injection site.

Once injected into animals, the agent is rapidly rendered inaccessible to anyone else by binding, internalization and eventual catabolism. It is extremely unlikely that intact toxin would ever be excreted or recoverable from the rats. The components of the toxin, IB4 and saporin, by themselves are no toxic threat. We use no special precautions with such rats except appropriate care for whatever neurologic deficits they develop, i.e. foot drop, autotomy, etc.

One caveat: To the best of my knowledge the above statements are accurate, but I do not know of any experimental data that directly addresses the issues. I base my comments on our long experience with similar agents including ricin and volkensin which are much more toxic and unstable.

Your recent issue of Targeting Trends (see Jul-Aug-Sep, 2001) stated that it was unlikely that saporin compounds or constituents would be excreted in urine or feces. However, you acknowledge that experimental data is lacking. Have there been any tests of animal urine or feces for saporin content? My animal care staff are concerned.

One of the reasons that no studies have been done on excretion of saporin is that there isn’t much on the theoretical side to cause concern. The primary issue is that the quantity used in mice (and even rabbits) is so small that when looked at in human terms (i.e., an animal 10 to 100-times larger), the dosage becomes insignificant. The LD50 for saporin in mice is 4-8 mg/kg; that would translate in humans to more than you’ll ever use! The immunotoxins, which contain only about 20% saporin by weight, really do not contain all that much saporin.

Looking at it another way, you need a concentration of about 100 nM to see even a vague hint of toxicity of saporin to cells. In human blood, that would correspond to 24 mg injected systemically into a person. It would be really expensive for anyone to get close to that number.

As far as urine and feces goes, the same calculations are appropriate, but there will be considerable degradation – the protein content in urine and feces is quite low and the probability is that you will be dealing with only saporin. Remember saporin is a plant protein that is related to proteins in foods that we eat (cucumbers, for example).

Stirpe F, Derenzini M, Barbieri L, Farabegoli F, Brown AN, Knowles PP, Thorpe PE (1987) Hepatotoxicity of immunotoxins made with saporin, a ribosome-inactivating protein from Saponaria officinalis. Virchows Arch [B] 53:259-271.

Are there any studies which indicate what doses of saporin (by itself or compounded with an antibody) would be hazardous if ingested or injected (i.e. systemic dose level resulting in death or organ dysfunction).

When there is an antibody that does recognize a human epitope (the human p75-saporin immunotoxin that is used in rabbits, for example), at about 1 pM one sees the slightest bit of toxicity to cells. That translates, if injected by error into a human blood supply, to about 170 micrograms. That also is a gigantic dose. I am using very conservative numbers here, and the bottom line is that you cannot accidentally reach such dangerous levels under normal handling situations.

Having said all this, we still recommend that our customers take excellent care of themselves and we state clearly that precautions should be taken by people handling these materials, just as they should use precautions with all laboratory chemicals. Please refer to the data sheets provided with our products for safety instructions.

See also: Targeted Toxins Catalog